There are a lot of bad writing books out there. Some are actually secretarial manuals or repackaged textbooks; some promise you riches and the bestseller list in just a few weeks. Others are nothing more than self-help therapy guides. For the new writer who simply wants a solid education of the craft, trying to find good books on the subject can be daunting.
Whether you wish to pursue writing professionally, want to refine your business communications, or simply want to learn a new skill, there are five books that absolutely should be on your shelf. Go to the bookstore, skip over all the fly-by-night writing manuals and buy:
The Chicago Manual Of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press. Currently in its 15th edition, Chicago is the respected bible of professional writing and the publishing world. It is a big book, covering every detail of grammar, style and publication design; for anything but newspaper copy, the Chicago Manual is the industry rulebook.
The Associated Press Style Guide, published by the Associated Press. Newspaper writing follows subtly different rules than the rest of the publishing world, and it is important to know the differences before sending out that next press release. The AP Style Guide is the industry standard rulebook for writing for news print.
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Currently in its 25th anniversary edition. Hands down the finest book on nonfiction writing available today, and the most lucid definition of what good writing is, how it is achieved and why it is important. Zinsser is one of those rare writers who practices what he preaches - his books ("Writing To Learn" is good too) are simple but effective, a joy to read.
Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. First published in 1918, this tiny style book is the ancestor of most of today's best writing manuals, distilling the fundamentals of written construction into a handful of simple principles. (The first edition of Elements is now in the public domain, and available in several places on the Web.)
The Associated Press Guide To News Writing, by Rene J. Cappon. An excellent companion to the Associated Press Style Guide, this reference guide for working journalists packs almost every writing issue imaginable into 140 pages. An excellent writing guide, itself written in a very clean "we're on deadline, we don't have time to waste" style that gets right to the point on all the important topics.