Writing well is hard work. I have been trying to improve my writing skills as I work on my dissertation. Dan Edelen, who is working on a novel, lists five Essential Books on Writing. I haven’t read any of the books on his list, but I might check them out.
Dan’s writing project is different than mine, so here are two other books that are helpful for those who are doing academic writing.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. As the subtitle says, this is a classic. The current edition is the 30th anniversary edition. The book is divided into four sections, entitled “Principles,” “Methods,” “Forms,” and “Attitudes.” This is a book about the craft of writing rather than a book about grammar (you will need one of those as well). The author shares many examples from a wide range of literature as well as from his own writing projects. Especially helpful are his examples of editing changes that he has made in his own work.
Quality Research Papers by Nancy Jean Vyhmeister is written for those writing research papers in religion and theology. This is a good basic introduction to writing research papers, theses, and dissertations with special attention to those writing theological papers. I have found that other books on research writing are focused on either scientific or social science research, neither of which provide a good model for theological writing. In contrasting theological writing with the social sciences she says “In fact, scholars on that side of the campus may look at the ‘method’ used in seminary research and find only ‘madness'” (p. 26). But that is because that they do not understand that theological truth is discovered through study of the Scriptures rather then through sociological or anthropological field work.