Friday, April 26, 2013

Helpful Reference Books for On-the-Job Writers

The Business Writer's Handbook or The Handbook of Technical Writing is usually the first book I recommend to business people who ask about a good writer's reference. Both books are written by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, published by St. Martin's Press, and in their tenth edition as of November 2011.

No need to buy both books, as most of their entries are identical, an understandable publisher's ploy to get either the employees who believe themselves to be business writers or those who consider themselves technical writers. Regardless of how you identify yourself, you will find either book helpful, so buy the one with the best price. They are available as hardcover, softcover, or spiral-bound, the last being my preferred because the book freely stays in the desired opened position. 

Among the many benefits of owning either book:

  • All 400 entries in the handbooks appear in alphabetical order, making for quick reference.
  • The descriptions and examples of terms capture the essence of the entries.
  • Among the numerous writing models with detailed explanations are abstracts, executive summaries, feasibility reports, investigative reports, job application letters, resumes, proposals, policies and procedures, and meeting minutes.
  • Every entry links to specific moments of the writing process.
  • Many tips on writing clearly and concisely are included. 
  • Basic rules for correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and abbreviation are easy to find. 
While I have been using the book since its first edition in 1982,  each subsequent edition expanded to account for emerging issues like email, web-based writing, and English as a second language, as well as contracted to make the entries more concise. More than thirty years after their first edition, the books remain standard references for business and technical writers.