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Writing That Works

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  934 ratings  ·  77 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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Average rating 3.71  · 
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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 we ou
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 telephoning a
Robinson Terry
Sep 05, 2020 rated it liked it
When I was a grant writer my boss bought me a copy of Strunk & White's "Elements of Style." I think this book would've been more helpful in that situation. It's a bit outdated, but contains a number of insights regarding business writing that are still valuable. Distilled down to three key ideas, the authors recommend writers know their audience, get to the point of their communications quickly, and cut the heck out of their writing. Chop it up. The book is an easy read. Unlike Strunk & White, t ...more
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.
James Hammer
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read this book and it is extremely helpful. This book is a brilliant sample and a guide about how to prepare a speech. I have to prepare a speech for the conference. I'll present my research project. I think it will impress everyone but I really want to learn how to present it in the best way. My speech with the presentation will based on tips and thoughts of the author of this book. I will write the result later. ...more
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.
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.
Cristian Eduardo Capellino
Useful recommendations that can be applied immediately.

This book is a must-read. Most companies would increase their effectiveness and efficiency if all their people read this book. Those who read it and apply it will be a step ahead from the competition. Very easy to read, the authors clearly walk the talk.
I used this book to improve my writing when establishing elite score writers, and this review should serve to assist others.
For example, "the purpose is to persuade somebody - or more often a number of people - to approve a recommendation or proposal, and agree to put it into action" is an idea that I found extremely helpful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Priya sankar
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended for better writing.
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.
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Although the book is a bit dated, for sure you will learn a few new tips and tricks
Sinziana Mihalache
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Useful and concise advice on different types of written pieces (memos, presentations, letters, pitches etc); might be of use also to those interested in creative writing. Easy to read.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Written almost 40 years ago, this book touts writing advice still recommended today.
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
Book Calendar
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, business
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 of th
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