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How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide

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A practical guide to everything you’ll ever need to write—at work, at school, and in your personal life.

With more than two hundred how-to entries and easy-to-use models organized into three comprehensive sections on work, school, and personal life, How to Write Anything covers a wide range of topics that make it an essential guide for the whole family. You want your boss to fund a special project. How can you write a persuasive email that will win his approval? It's time to apply to college. How can you write an essay that will stand out? The mother of one of your co-workers has died. What's the best way to express your condolences?

Grounded in a common-sense approach, friendly and supportive, How to Write Anything is Internet-savvy, with advice throughout about choosing the most appropriate medium for your message: e-mail or pen and paper. At once a how-to, a reference book, and a pioneering guide for writing in a changing world, this is the only writing resource you'll ever need.

560 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 7, 2014

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About the author

Laura Brown

1 book17 followers
Laura Brown, PhD, has taught writing to just about everyone—from corporate executives to high school students. Her expertise encompasses instructor-led training, individual coaching, classroom teaching, and e-learning development. She has more than twenty-five years’ experience providing training and coaching in business writing, and she has also taught composition and literature at Columbia University. She lives in New York.

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5 stars
62 (38%)
4 stars
56 (35%)
3 stars
35 (21%)
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5 (3%)
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2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Eustacia Tan.
Author 15 books249 followers
May 15, 2014
How many times do we have to write?

The answer is many. We write text messages, emails, and even the occasional letter (I love getting letters by the way!)

But how do we know if we're writing the same thing? If you're me, you probably had a test called "Situational Writing" in school, which tested you on writing the appropriate letter (For example a complaint).

That's actually a really useful English test, but it's not enough. There are tons of situations and letters that we need to write and the school doesn't have enough time to teach us. This is where How To Write Anything comes in.

I tried reading it in one go, for the review, and I discovered one thing: This is more of a reference book than anything. Read Section 1, which talks about the elements of writing: Purpose, Understanding your reader, Brainstorm, Organise, Draft and Revise. Think of it as the crash course in writing.

After that, keep the book as a reference guide. Section II is for "e-writing", basically emails and anything done on a smartphone and a tablet. Section III is the encyclopedia of almost two hundred writing situations that you may encounter. Many situations come with a good and bad example (some only have a good example) and tips for how to write. Students who have situation writing, you may want to read through this.

As a reference book, I think this book does the job pretty well. It won't teach you to be a writer of fiction, but it will help you write well enough to coast through daily life.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

This review was first posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile
Profile Image for Kris - My Novelesque Life.
4,625 reviews189 followers
April 22, 2017
(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY)


I have not really read the entire book as this is more of a reference guide than a book to read cover to cover. I have not really touched the "school" writing section as I have not been a student for quite a while, and am hoping I never have to write a school essay again! I have mostly been reading the other two sections - work and personal. This book is great for any person that writes (or has to write) as it the perfect reference for any kind of writing. I really like the eBook, and hope to get a hard copy as well.
Profile Image for Marcus Kazmierczak.
96 reviews7 followers
September 4, 2021
The first section has good practical advice on a writing process that is flexible enough for any sort of writing. The gist is the major steps — Purpose, Reader, Brainstorm, Organize, Draft, and Revise — can be done in any order and often many times for the same writing.

The second section on e-writing feels a little dated, written in 2014, or just common sense now. The content is still thoughtful and relevant.

The first two sections are 45 pages, the remaining 500 pages of the book are examples and advice on the many many types of writing; from topics such as Thank you letters, and Wedding toasts to Fighting a parking ticket and Sales Proposals. I glanced through this section it's good, but more of a reference for specific situations.

I checked the book out from our library, but I wanted my own copy to keep for reference, so I ordered myself a used copy.

Now what's it say about book reviews...
Profile Image for Marjolein (UrlPhantomhive).
2,360 reviews50 followers
August 30, 2014

Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

I think that if you'll ever need to write anything in your life -which is very likely indeed- it will be very unlikely you'll not find how to write it in this book. That are so many entries in the book. Even things I never imagined you could write; like a divorce letter (and a response to one).

I think it's a good reference book if you need to write something but you don't feel to comfortable to do it on your own. However some things are repeated a lot (like that you should not write things online you don't want everyone to know; which is good advise of course, but is repeated in all entries on e-writing), and other things sound a bit more like a joke than serious advise (like: you don't NEED to write about flowers when writing a love letter. You don't say?!). But overall quite useful.
Profile Image for Rod.
77 reviews1 follower
May 26, 2017
Definitely a well-crafted and very useful resource for any number of writing projects. The title, however, is something of a misnomer: It should probably read "How To Write Anything IN A BUSINESS CONTEXT". Creative writing is not covered here -- there are no "How to write a novel" or "How to write a screenplay" sections. However, for what there IS here it is highly useful and highly recommended .
Profile Image for Albert Zhan.
2 reviews
May 7, 2018
Even it is good to second language learner to practice writing skills and to enrich basic knowledge of English-based communication tips, minimising the misunderstanding relating to different cultures.
Profile Image for Sara Diane.
725 reviews27 followers
May 19, 2017
I got this from NetGalley to review.

This is a handy how-to, and it helps you figure out how to write just about anything. From thank you notes, to novels, if you want to write something and need some help, this is the book for you.

Since it was a how-to, I didn't read each one, but I picked through enough to know that the advice is sound. And while I'm not one that usually has issues with writing, I found that I might keep it around, just in case.
160 reviews
May 25, 2019
Love this book! Everyone who writes, which is to say everyone, should own a copy. It starts with an easy to follow pattern for all writing and then goes on to include a specific outline for how to write literally everything from a thank you note, to an angry note to your neighbor, for real. Great book!
Profile Image for B & A & F.
123 reviews
May 18, 2020
I read this book out of curiosity because it tries to teach you very very specific types of writing, the types you wouldn't usually consider "writing", e.g. say hi to your neighbor. I leaved through it and it's kinda entertaining in some parts...
Profile Image for Sandra Cruz.
104 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2020
Very useful reference book about how to write anything from thank you notes to resignation letters. It is definitely going on my personal bookshelf.

My Review
154 reviews
February 10, 2021
This book is quite exhaustive. Although I've never written a collections letter. I did find it funny that a book about writing anything would have so many typos and grammatical mistakes. Maybe that was by design!!
Profile Image for David Kinchen.
104 reviews10 followers
April 24, 2014
BOOK REVIEW: 'How to Write Anything: When Laura Brown Says 'Anything', She Means 'Anything'


Laura Brown's "How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide' (W.W. Norton, 608 pages, index, $35.00) is the most comprehensive guide to writing I've seen. I wish the book had been available when I was in college more than 50 years ago.

As it happened, I was blessed with wonderful English teachers in both high school and college -- teachers who inspired me to major in English, which led me to take up journalism as a profession.

Brown shows the reader how to write everything: from letters of complaint, thank you notes, invitations of all kinds, speeches, cover letters for resumes, letters of recommendations, college essays, even book reviews.

I liked the way she included examples of poor writing -- "Don't do this" -- along with much better examples: "Do this."

She also includes writing by contributors, including college students. Yes, the book would be an ideal gift to any student.

I've written about the need for classic style books, like Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elem...), but that classic, published in 1959, needs to be supplemented by a book for the age of the Internet. Brown's book is the best I've seen for today's writer.

"How to Write Anything" has more than two hundred how-to entries and easy-to-use models organized into three comprehensive sections on work, school, and personal life.

It's a book that's written in a style that's friendly and supportive. I've given a few speeches in my time and I agree with her statement that this activity is one of life's scariest experiences! In the speechwriting section (pages 408-412), she gives great advice on how to write the speech that's tailored to your audience, how to practice it before you get up on that platform (am I scaring you enough?) and how to have a friend critique it. In fact, having somebody you respect critique your writing is a great idea.

Let's say you're applying for college. Brown shows how to write application essays that will stand out. Somebody is hogging the parking in your neighborhood, blocking your driveway. Brown shows how to write a note for the offender's windshield that won't end up with your tires slashed. A neighbor persists in putting out his garbage containers days before the scheduled pickup. Brown shows how to write the proper note.

PowerPoint presentations are one of the most common tools in business, and Brown has spot-on suggestions on how to write effective PowerPoint slide copy. On point she mentions deserves singling out: Just because your Mac or PC has dozens of type fonts, don't make the mistake of using too many in a slide.

"How to Write Anything" is at once a how-to guide and a reference book. No matter how long you've been writing, you can always improve you work and Laura Brown has just the book for you.

484 reviews10 followers
June 23, 2014
Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c...

Where was How to Write Anything when I was getting started as a self-taught freelance writer and editor? I had to purchase books on writing resumes, white papers, and research reports. In one volume, Brown has given us a guide to almost everything the average person will ever need to write. It will be an enormous help, and I am excited to include it on my shelf. But, it is also a great guide for anyone who writes anything. Should be in most every home.

Just think for a moment. What are the writing tasks that confuse you the most? Resumes and cover letters, for certain, as well as business letters, email messages, condolence letters, and college entrance essays. Brown covers them all and much more. She includes the problems, pitfalls, and possibilities of communicating in the 21st century, including instant messaging, emails, and tweeting.

The book is divided in three sections: personal writing, school writing, and professional/business writing. However, Brown recommends the same 6 steps for each endeavor. They are:

determine the purpose for the writing.
determine who the audience or the readers are
brainstorm ideas
organize thoughts and idea
do a final draft
revise, revise, revise.

To that, I would add one other step. Read it aloud. Here is what I have learned about reading something aloud. First, when you read it aloud, you don't miss mistakes that got overlooked with the spell or grammar checker on your word processor. Second, if you read it aloud, you will catch run-on sentences and things that just plain sound stupid. Third, you may catch misused words. Somehow reading a document aloud makes it sound like a different voice than your voice. Finally, if this really is an important document, have someone else read it aloud. They will most likely catch anything that you may have missed.

I really like the format and the comprehensive nature of How to Write Anything. I wish that my international clients each had a copy because I am constantly being asked to write an email to a professor or a cover letter to go with a resume. Kudos to Laura Brown for putting together such an easily accessible volume.

The website for the book: http://www.howtowriteanything.com/
851 reviews27 followers
June 5, 2014
With the prevalence of texting and email with its abbreviated spelling, the art of writing is for many young people an unknown reality. Laura Brown has provided a guide to almost every type of writing that will be required by a student, worker or any individual needing to communicate in correct and appropriate form. Section I and II address the need to have a clear purpose and knowledge of one’s audience when communicating, including the need to revise over and over again so that one conveys a professional stance. These chapters often address the issue of not writing for and to one’s self but the need to know your audience with their needs and skills and to write toward a very specific person or group. The issue of knowing when to place a telephone call and when to write is also addressed, as well as the courtesy that is essential even in IMs and email messages.
The text then takes the reader through all those life events that the majority of us experience over the years such as introductions, announcements, condolences, love letter (yes, even that), obituaries, weddings, births, baby showers, personal letters to neighbors, letters to oppose parking tickets, notes to teachers, etc., etc.
The next section is so necessary, even though readers may wrongly assume these skills are taught in school, and include how to take notes, make an outline, and write summaries, research papers and essays in the different forms that different subjects require. This is followed by just about every type of letter one would need to write in the business environment and when seeking a job or a promotion.
Examples of both the do’s and don’ts of each type of writing are very helpful parts within each section. Essential and important rules are highlighted in shaded grey boxes and circular graphs are included to assist one in progressing through different steps in each process. Correct grammar and punctuation complete the package.
While this might not seem like endearing reading, it is a fascinating, comprehensive collection of fine writing in every imaginable form. This should be a staple text for every family – very nicely done, Laura Brown!!!
Profile Image for Edythe.
331 reviews2 followers
August 26, 2014

“There’s nothing wrong with the six-step process…The real key to success is not going through these six steps in any particular order but simply in ensuring that you’ve touched all bases at least once as you go through the writing process.” –Laura Brown

How to Write Anything begins with the basic six-step process of writing as know your purpose, know your reader, brainstorm, organize, draft, and revise to create and finalize your writing project. There are several areas covered in this handy reference book from preparing a simple note to constructing a working resume to producing detailed recipe cards for the chef in you or gifting opportunity. The information contained within includes ‘do and don’t’ tips for every writing entry along with sample writings to ensure you generate the best-written communication possible.

Do you have a concern about communicating through business and social emails or social media message ads? There is no cause for alarm because information is plentiful in length including newspaper articles and a very useful section on creating surveys and survey questions. For high school and college students there is a dedicated section for an essay, thesis, resume, and cover letters adding an additional part for ‘Action Verbs for Resumes’ for those currently seeking employment. Again, all subject matter has detailed explanations, annotations, and summaries from writing a brochure and sales proposal to wedding vows to apology letters.

This book is a handy reference guide for producing or creating written communication for personal or public use including novelists as I found good pointers on blogging and recommend to all who write for business or pleasure.

I received this book free from W.W. Norton & Company through the Net Galley reviewer program in exchange for an unbiased opinion in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission guidelines.
Profile Image for MeriBeth.
106 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2014
How to Write Anything is, just as the title says, the complete guide to writing just about anything a modern person would need to know from simple notes to long letters to college essays to PowerPoint presentations. However, unlike many books from W W Norton, this book is more a reference or guide book than a textbook or a general readership book. In fact, I would go so far as to say this would make the perfect reference guide for high school students and college freshman rather than the general public even though it’s designed to cover everything and anything. My own copy is being handed over to my daughter who is entering her freshman year of high school. After so many years of standardized, fill in the little dot tests for math and vocabulary she’s all but clueless on how to write proper essays, letters and research papers which she’ll need to do for high school. This is just the book she needs to fill that gap in her education. Highly recommended for students and those just starting their careers… and the rest of us too.

Review copy received from NetGalley.
Profile Image for Meaghan.
277 reviews39 followers
May 1, 2014
This hefty compendium doesn’t seem to have left anything out. Brown has compiled a resource that covers it all. Beginning with the more typical — thank-you note, cover letter, letter of recommendation — Brown also examines best practices for business Facebook updates, a note to the babysitter and divorce condolences. Each heading has a description of the item to be written and an example of what not to do, and what one should do.

Brown approaches each item with six steps: purpose, reader, brainstorm, organize, draft, revise. And, in general, I think most people forget the first two. What is your reason for writing this down at all? What will it accomplish or convey? And, secondly, who will be reading it? What do they need to take away from it?

Please support independent reviewers and read my full post here: http://mwgerard.com/accent-how-to-wri...
Profile Image for Michelle Kidwell.
Author 39 books72 followers
June 22, 2014
How to Write Anything
Laura Brown
Copyright 2014

How to Write Anything is a collection of invaluable articles fof authors snd students alike.  This book covrrs everything from writing the Personal Essay to writing text messages an even shows you how to properly write a thank you message.

Laura Brown puts together a book evrry household shoulf hsve a book that shows you how to anf how not to craft everything from a Wedding Announcement to a personal blog. It covers everything from organizing to writing the final draft.

Brown includes a section on writing and notetaking fof both High School and College students.  There is even sections in this boom that show us how to avoid Plagarism.

What makes How to Write Anything such an invaluable too for anyone it does not only show you how to write but it shows you how not to write.

Five Stars for this invaluable book.
Profile Image for Nathanael Green.
Author 4 books146 followers
February 7, 2017
Straight forward, practical advice for writing most practical things. This, I think, will be a book that is at-hand for many students, and especially those who feel the need for a little extra, clear writing support.
Profile Image for Maria Tizon.
117 reviews13 followers
July 12, 2016
How to Write Anything is a thorough and very well thought out reference book. It covers a wide array of topics from divorce announcements to resumes and provides tips on the dos and do-nots and the pitfalls we all fall into as we write. This is not the sort of book you read straight through but rather a valuable reference to return to time and time again depending on what you are writing. It is laid out in logical order with ease and sufficiency in mind. How to Write Anything will come in handy in many writing endeavors and deserves a space on any writers or non-writers reference shelf.
Profile Image for Margo Kelly.
Author 3 books146 followers
May 2, 2014
WOW! What an amazing reference book! This book is huge with quality information on writing everything from a note to leave on a windshield to a business speech. And there are examples of what NOT to write ... "To the Moron in the Mazda -- Nice alliteration but not likely to encourage cooperation" (page 173).

There are helpful lists of things to do and not to do. There are tips for writing in high school, college, the work force, and everyday life.

This would make an excellent gift for a graduating high school senior or a gift for anyone who enjoys writing.

I highly recommend it.
167 reviews1 follower
June 30, 2014
Didn't get to read as much of this as I wanted to, but was able to order a copy for the library so it should at least be close by as a reference. I LOVE the way things are laid out-clear, concise, and with reasons behind the do's and don'ts. A huge range of situations are covered, including windshield notes, recipes, holiday letters, and even online reviews! One thing that I found lacking was online dating profiles, tho there is lots about social media so I think it would be comparable. Looking forward to better writing with this book.
Profile Image for Pam Thomas.
361 reviews17 followers
May 3, 2014
What a brilliant book. I loved it, it covers a wide spectrum of topics, provides easy to use models for work, school, home life even down to projects. It has to be one of a kind book as I have never seen one like it, it uses common sense, complete guide and is user friendly, supporting, internet friendly, email, pen, paper and everything would every want rolled into one book.
Profile Image for Ann.
5,068 reviews59 followers
October 2, 2014
This is the most comprehensive book on writing I've seen in a long time. It is concise and well organized. It covers everything from personal letters to complaints, and college essays. The table of contents has it divided into logical sections. A workplace condolence to an internet posting. Only book you will need.
Profile Image for Dana.
2,409 reviews
March 30, 2016
Wow. This is quite a useful reference book! From thank you notes to taking notes to lab reports, speeches, blogs, power point presentations and so much more, this book has it all in a like this, not like that format. I think that high school and college students and adults will find this to be a handy and useful reference book. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Heydi Smith.
2,829 reviews7 followers
May 24, 2014
The reference guide for anyone who's ever picked up a pen. I found so much to love about this book it was hard to take back to the library.
February 4, 2016
This is actually a really great resource book for just about any writing situation. Would maybe be good for a HS grad gift? Or maybe even middle school grad?
Profile Image for Masatoshi Nishimura.
314 reviews13 followers
July 7, 2016
A solid book that covers all formats from wedding greeting to 140 words tweets. She's expertise in wide range, and good vs bad contrasts are helpful.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

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