Which books are guaranteed to make you a better writer in 2024?

In 2017, we wrote a guide to the best business writing books. Now we’ve updated it for the age of AI.

So if you’d like a crash course in the fundamentals of good writing – with or without the assistance of artifical intelligence – here are eight books guaranteed to help you improve.

1. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-fiction by William Zinsser

On Writing Well

A writer, editor and teacher at Columbia University, William Zinsser was the grand master of good writing. On Writing Well is his definitive guide on how to write. For Zinsser, it’s all about treating the reader with respect and getting straight to the point.

On Writing Well isn’t just full of good advice, it’s also a model of good writing in itself: punchy, informative and humorous. As a critic once wrote about Zinsser’s work: “You actually enjoy reading it, rather than feeling like you’re eating your spinach.”

Memorable advice: “We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”

2. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

Ogilvy on Advertising

Ogilvy’s book On Advertising is something of a snapshot of the Golden Age of US advertising. And, while entertaining, it also contains some timeless and valuable advice about writing, including some frank insights on how to write to persuade. Who better to learn that from than one of the best copywriters of the modern age?

Memorable advice: “Many people – and I think I am one of them – are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.”

3. Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words by Bill Bryson

On the outside, Bill Bryson may seem like something of a jolly old uncle – his writing cheerful and uncomplicated. But Bryson is an author of rare skill, especially when it comes to taking a mass of complex information and turning it into something simple and entertaining. Although ostensibly a reference book, Troublesome Words provides some understanding of just how he does this. Better still, it gives you a few laughs along the way.

Memorable advice: “One idea to a sentence is still the best advice that anyone has ever given on writing.”

4. Everybody Writes: Your Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (Revised and Expanded) by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes, provides sound advice on how to write in the digital age from content expert Ann Handley. It starts with the premise that everyone must now think of themselves as a writer. And it’s jammed full with information on how to communicate effectively in a business context, covering emails, blogging and writing for social media as well as more general advice.

Memorable advice: “Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.”

5. Better, Smarter, Faster: A Step-by-step Guide to Writing with AI for Business by Ralph Grayden and Emma Sorensen

OK, maybe it’s cheeky to incldue our book among so many great authors, but hear us out…. We don’t think AI will replace us writers, but we do think it will change the way we compose our writing – just as the typewriter and PC did. Our book shows you how you can incorporate AI into your existing writing processes to get a better result in much quicker time.

Memorable advice: “While AI will currently deliver poor results if you just ask it to get writing, it’s also capable of delivering excellent results if you’re prepared to put in a bit of effort at your end.”

6. The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

No list of writing books would be complete without The Elements of Style, or “Strunk & White” as it’s more commonly known. It’s probably the one writing book that adorns the shelves of every university literature student, journalist, copywriter and professional writer around the world. The authors may be long dead but their general advice – Be clear, Use the Active Voice, Write with Nouns and Verbs, Avoid Fancy Words, etc – remains as important as ever.

Memorable advice: “Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.”

7. Writing from Start to Finish by Kate Grenville

One of Australia’s leading fiction writers reveals her secrets in this clear, simple and practical six-step guide to writing. It is as useful for students writing essays as it is for people looking to brainstorm ideas, write an article or thoroughly dissect their writing style.

Memorable advice: “Every piece of writing is like a journey. It starts at the Beginning, travels along through the Middle, and Ends up at its destination.”

8. Story by Robert McKee

It might be about screenwriting but Robert McKee’s Story is a must-read for any writer. Known for his famous “Story Seminars”, his book emphasises the importance of structure and narrative, or “story”. McKee has been subject to much publicity and criticism, and he and his writing seminar were immortalised in the 2002 film Adaptation (a great piece of writing in itself).

Memorable advice: “Anxious inexperienced writers obey rules; rebellious unschooled writers break rules; an artist masters the form.”

Want more?

Want to become a better writer (either traditionally or by using AI)? Get in touch about our writing seminars, webinars and workshops.