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Writing That Works

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  849 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Writing That Works will help you say what you want to say, with less difficulty and more confidence. Now in its third edition, this completely updated classic has been expanded to included all new advice on e-mail and the e-writing world, plus a fresh point of view on political correctness. With dozens of examples, many of them new, and useful tips for writing as well as f ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 208 pages
Published August 22nd 2000 by Collins Reference (first published 1981)
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3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  849 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I bought a copy of Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson’s Writing That Works because advertising legend, David Ogilvy, recommended it to his staff at his ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather, in a memo he issued back in 1982.

I write for a living, so I took note.

A lot of what Ogilvy suggested made sense.

And a lot of what’s covered in Writing That Works makes sense, too.

Actually, it made so much sense that I wound up having a really good, constructive conversation with the CEO at work about the direction w
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
OK this goes on my 'recommended reading for students' list. Too often do I get emails that are actually three emails weirdly intertwined and after spending 10 minutes untangling the email I have no idea what I'm supposed to do - is there a question or action for me anywhere?

This book is a generic 'how to write' book with a focus on business writing in the form of internal memos. There are tips and helpful advice on writing reports, letters, grant applications, CVs, speeches, and lots on proper e
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I give it 2 stars because they gave 1 piece of good advice: DON'T MUMBLE.
But then they didn't follow that advice and kept on talking how to write an email. (pro tip: be short and clear)

I know it's an old book, I just wish it wasn't promoted as something evergreen.

Also, it's recommended as a must read by David Ogilvy, which is fun because it was written by people who worked for David Ogilvy.
Mridul Singhai
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If your day job involves communicating to other people (almost certainly it does), give this book a try. It uses several representative examples to come upon its thesis that effective communication is the paramount to business/job success.
Phil Simon
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: business
This book would have done better to focus on one area or two. By attempting to cover email, presentations, resumes, proposals, and a swath of other areas in 180 pages, the book ultimately fails. What's more, I found the material to be pretty basic. I hate to be critical, but presentations require separate texts. This book just covers major areas in a rather perfunctory manner.
Andres Moreira
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great book about how you ca improve your writing skills, in particular your business writing skills. The book has many recommendations for
* better e-mails
* better presentations
* better proposals

Some sections were a bit boring (improve your resume for example), but I've enjoyed a lot the one about Presentations & Speeches.

Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Louis Begley recommends this as "The Strunk and White of business writing". Like Strunk & White, most of Writing That Works is painfully outdated, which makes sense - the third edition was published in 2000, almost 20 years ago.

You can chuck out about 90% of what they wrote on email and the Internet, to start. Most job transactions happen online, stuff rarely takes "too long" to download, and printing your email to come back to it the morning is a waste of paper. Oh, and good luck telephonin
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Many of the approaches in this book could be regarded as good advice on clear writing; many of the specifics are outdated. However, that doesn't diminish the value of this book because they authors explicitly argue that readers should always be adapting to the audience and that past usage may no longer be appropriate. The chapter on political correctness was a particularly good example in this respect, because it encourages writers to appreciate the views of the audience, especially minority gro ...more
Mohd Rukhairy Abdul Rahman
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author's approach on business writing is quite astonishing given such a dull topic to cover. It's quite an eye opening for someone who almost frequently wrote a semi-journal kind of email including business email as well and I've been doing it for the past few years. It's a good start with all the business emails I've been sending out this past few weeks. The part where the author talk about Mark Twain removing a word for every 3 words sounds like a thing to try next time. Taking a break eve ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
More theory less examples

The thoretical aspect of the book was fine, you can get the two cents from the book. A lot more is required in terms of situational examples. The book is priced at a much higher price point than the information that it supplies. It's worth a quick reading which would lead you to use the hooks provided in the book to do a lot more research of your own. I would have expected everything to be there in this book so that it becomes my one source and then I practise and adjust
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book has good tips. It provides guidelines and good suggestions for how to write something that is professional, understandable, and, hopefully, effective. It is dated though. It was written in 2000 and you can tell. E-mail is discussed, but there is significance placed on other forms of communicating not used often anymore. Other than that limitation, it is a useful book and worth the quick read by anyone that writes professionally.
Natalia Baldochi
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
First of all, it's an outdated book. The authors have revised it but still, it doesn't talk about the world with millennials. I wish the book had more language and stile discussion instead of explaining to write a report.
On the other side, I believe it to be a good book for a start. It brings good points about speech, resume, and revisions.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
While some of the examples might be dated, most of the advice in this book is timeless and commonsense. In 13 concise chapters, the authors recommend the most effective practices for getting your writing read, understood, and acted upon. I will be using this as a handy desk reference for years to come.
Leslie Ann
Jan 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: work-related
Don't let the rating fool you: this is a fantastic book. Much of the material, however, is familiar to me and the book often read like a series of lists. One thing I especially liked is how they analyzed the structure of effective letters as a series of actions.
Priya sankar
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended for better writing.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
A lot of the information in this book is old hat for any seasoned business writers. If you are new to the game, it's a good primer.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some of the information in here is dated, but their advice on writing is spot-on and helpful. Great information about resume writing as well.
Ishtiak Hasan
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
don't mumble. that pretty much summarise the whole idea. rest of the parts you can skip if you're reading it in 2017 like me.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely worth a read. Taught me a thing or two.
Gaurav Bhati
Good light read. Feels quite dated though. Most of the learnings can be synthesized and presented in a short column instead of a book.
Floris Wolswijk
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Improve your writing, make it easier and give yourself a confidence boost. That is what the back of Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman and Joep Raphaelson promises – and they deliver. In less than 200 pages they take the reader on a journey along the basics of effective writing. First they tackle the most common mistakes we all make, like mumbling, writing too difficult, or non-specific. After that the book tackles specific areas such as writing for audiences, writing report that make things ha ...more
Jose Romero
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've always been of fan of the classic guide to writing, The Elements of Style, otherwise known by its informal, eponymous moniker, Strunk & White.

It's short, clear, and makes a great reference for all writers.

Writing That Works is the modern business equivalent of The Elements of Style. Although Writing That Works is dated in some aspects, the original edition came out when the Internet was a novelty, the lessons it conveys are solid. The chapter entitled Don't Mumble is worth the price o
Book Calendar
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, writing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emidia Felipe
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Muito bom. Mesmo com 17 anos de idade, tem dicas superatuais sobre escrita e algumas que podem ser muito úteis no ambiente corporativo mesmo que as regras tenham mudado. Recomendo fortemente. E se quiser, tenho as citações arquivadas em um fichamento.
Sarthak Pranit
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, when David Ogilvy recommends a book about writing, you simply download it on your Kindle - no questions asked but with expectations raised. And that's the folly with recommendations from big folks - you run into the risk of over-expecting... like an Indian parent.

Undoubtedly, it's a good book, but it's a book that has failed to stand the test of time. The first four chapters are true masterpieces. Their simple motive is impressive - Business writing is primarily about communication. Style
Jessica Horne
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016_books
Kind of outdated but some of the concepts are still relevant to today. The first third of the book covered what I was looking for; how to write better and more efficiently. The middle to end described the difference between fax and email, marketing strategies, how to sell, collect, and complain, and how to write a speech/give a presentation. It ended with how to edit and save time writing. Overall, I would not recommend this book. I think there are many modern books that would cover the good top ...more
Joe Miller
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Probably best for writers who are a tad weak generally or for those who find themselves getting promoted into a position where a lot of writing is required. I picked this up for tips on improving my business writing skills -- I was particularly looking for tips on writing tighter summaries. Writing the Works was aimed at those who still require convincing that writing well is important. There was a lot of good stuff in here, but it was pretty much all stuff that I used to tell my Rhetoric 100 st ...more
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Solid and helpful. I came across it when I was looking at an article by David Ogilvy on the Communication Arts website. Ogilivy was the founder of the ad agency, Ogilvy and Mather, and he is known for using writing as an advertising tool. He made copywriting significant and cool. Ogilvy believed and proved that if the writing is good, people will read it. In the article, he advises to read this book three times.

If you want to write effectively, this book will show you how. There's also a sectio
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
The book's essential premise is: be clear when writing. Use clear and active words. Don't mumble in writing. But writing like this is also simple. People might think of you as a simpleton. Tthat means a stupid person.

Seriously though, the main drawback of this book that it neglects the impact of culture on communication and writing: the guidelines are written as to work in the American / Western European context. I can tell some of the things this book suggests to avoid are exactly the kind of t
Tracy McKibben
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
There's a lot of good writing tips and advice between the covers of this book. Actually, more precisely, there's a lot of good COMMUNICATION tips between its covers. I've been actively applying some of them to my email communications over the past few days, and I've noticed a difference in the level of response they've generated and a lesser degree of "back-and-forth" trying to get a message across.

Looking forward to trying to apply more of the advice to my other forms of writing and presentatio
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“What comes after “Dear” is worth some thought. Use first names only when you’re already on a first-name basis. Don’t become anybody’s pen pal by unilateral action. Use titles — Dr., Judge, Professor, Senator — when they apply.” 0 likes
“Yours truly” benefits from a lack of any specific silly meaning. It is as rooted in convention as “Dear George,” and useful for that reason.” 0 likes
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