One Book Can Improve Your Writing For a Lifetime

writing with style

I was first introduced to John Trimble’s Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing 25 years ago, when I was an undergraduate English major. The book is still on my shelf, in its second edition; I refer to the book often, and recommend it more often.

What makes this little book (fewer than 200 pages) so useful? Well, to begin with, this might sound strange, but it’s well written. My experience is that books about writing aren’t written in a very engaging way, that reading them can be like chewing rocks. I want a concise book with memorable examples that will improve my writing. The conversational tone of Trimble’s writing is less a manual of rules and more tutorial from a friend.

Here’s the entire chapter about revising:

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?

Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

Hemingway: Getting the words right.

Enough said about revising, don’t you think?