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HBR Guide to Better Business Writing

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DON'T LET YOUR WRITING HOLD YOU BACK. When you’re fumbling for words and pressed for time, you might be tempted to dismiss good business writing as a luxury. But it’s a skill you must cultivate to succeed: You’ll lose time, money, and influence if your e-mails, proposals, and other important documents fail to win people over. The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing , by DON'T LET YOUR WRITING HOLD YOU BACK. When you’re fumbling for words and pressed for time, you might be tempted to dismiss good business writing as a luxury. But it’s a skill you must cultivate to succeed: You’ll lose time, money, and influence if your e-mails, proposals, and other important documents fail to win people over. The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing , by writing expert Bryan A. Garner, gives you the tools you need to express your ideas clearly and persuasively so clients, colleagues, stakeholders, and partners will get behind them. This book will help you: • Push past writer’s block • Grab—and keep—readers’ attention • Earn credibility with tough audiences • Trim the fat from your writing • Strike the right tone • Brush up on grammar, punctuation, and usage


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DON'T LET YOUR WRITING HOLD YOU BACK. When you’re fumbling for words and pressed for time, you might be tempted to dismiss good business writing as a luxury. But it’s a skill you must cultivate to succeed: You’ll lose time, money, and influence if your e-mails, proposals, and other important documents fail to win people over. The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing , by DON'T LET YOUR WRITING HOLD YOU BACK. When you’re fumbling for words and pressed for time, you might be tempted to dismiss good business writing as a luxury. But it’s a skill you must cultivate to succeed: You’ll lose time, money, and influence if your e-mails, proposals, and other important documents fail to win people over. The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing , by writing expert Bryan A. Garner, gives you the tools you need to express your ideas clearly and persuasively so clients, colleagues, stakeholders, and partners will get behind them. This book will help you: • Push past writer’s block • Grab—and keep—readers’ attention • Earn credibility with tough audiences • Trim the fat from your writing • Strike the right tone • Brush up on grammar, punctuation, and usage

30 review for HBR Guide to Better Business Writing

  1. 5 out of 5

    AV

    I finished this entire book in a mere 5 something hours, even though it's a how-to book and stretches to around 200 pages. This is also my lowest rated book till date. Following are my reasons, 1. There are, I believe, 4-5 stages of a writer - right from the time when a person picks that as a career option to an experienced professional of 20+ years. This book is for the very first type. Even an 8th standard kid will know that salutations invite commas/full-stops and not semi-colons, and "Never cl I finished this entire book in a mere 5 something hours, even though it's a how-to book and stretches to around 200 pages. This is also my lowest rated book till date. Following are my reasons, 1. There are, I believe, 4-5 stages of a writer - right from the time when a person picks that as a career option to an experienced professional of 20+ years. This book is for the very first type. Even an 8th standard kid will know that salutations invite commas/full-stops and not semi-colons, and "Never click Reply-All without first checking the recipient list." - I mean, seriously!!! 2. Repeated advice. The author has said pretty much the same thing a lot of times. Emphasizing is one thing. Emphasizing with different use-cases and newer perspectives is a different thing. 3. I even felt that the book contains only 50-60% of actionable content. True, examples are needed for clarifications. But not similar types always. And definitely not too much in number. 4. The last 27 pages of the book contain the commonly confused/similar sounding words - YES FULL 27 PAGES!! I mean, in the future, if I get a doubt regarding two commonly confusing words, will I search for this book or will I just Google???????? 5. I expected a much much better content from HBR, and I guess I need to agree with my friends that from past some time, HBR's quality has gone down. Like really down!! One small example from the book, > "Don't undermine your efforts with a hostile or inappropriate tone." > "Use a tone appropriate for your audience." > "Add a tone appropriate to your relationship with the recipient." > "Be as direct as possible while maintaining a polite tone." > "Be polite, sympathetic, and professional." What you're seeing above are 5 similar pointers. But in the book, they're highlights (Recaps) from 5 different chapters.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Bryan Garner is a genius and the closest thing in my life right now to a realistic role model. If you're already a skilled writer, this handbook can be a tad basic at times (e.g. lessons about "showing not telling," parallel structure, etc.) But it's far from inessential. A refresher course in writing is always edifying, and I learned some good tips for approaching the writing process. Plus a few important usage tips I'd forgotten or didn't know. If you work in business and don't think of yoursel Bryan Garner is a genius and the closest thing in my life right now to a realistic role model. If you're already a skilled writer, this handbook can be a tad basic at times (e.g. lessons about "showing not telling," parallel structure, etc.) But it's far from inessential. A refresher course in writing is always edifying, and I learned some good tips for approaching the writing process. Plus a few important usage tips I'd forgotten or didn't know. If you work in business and don't think of yourself as a "professional writer," however, this book is absolutely essential. Read this book. Read it twice. Take notes and highlight memorable sections. Review your notes and highlighted parts. You will improve your writing and communication skills in general. As a result, you will get more done and change the way coworkers and clients think about you - for the better. Do yourself a favor and invest $15 of that annual raise in improving the way you write and think.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Muneel Zaidi

    I had to write a review on this book for a class: Introduction Good writing is essential to success in business. Brian Green’s HBR Guide to Better Business Writing clearly explains the steps to communicate successfully through writing. This review will serve to as a short primer and critical analysis of this work. Four sections, consisting of twenty-one chapters, makeup the book; additionally six appendixes accompany the text. In general, each chapter starts with a writing concept, why it is impor I had to write a review on this book for a class: Introduction Good writing is essential to success in business. Brian Green’s HBR Guide to Better Business Writing clearly explains the steps to communicate successfully through writing. This review will serve to as a short primer and critical analysis of this work. Four sections, consisting of twenty-one chapters, makeup the book; additionally six appendixes accompany the text. In general, each chapter starts with a writing concept, why it is important, and some guidelines on how to apply it. It then applies this concept to an example text, which makes the text more communicable, clear, and concise. All chapters end by recapping the main points of the chapter. Thesis Green’s thesis is that the key to effective business writing is to communicate purposefully, clearly, and concisely. This is evident in each section of the book, which all serve to communicate his main points. First, the writer should deliver information quickly and clearly. Second, they should know their purpose and communicate it in a straightforward manner. Finally, they should avoid common mistakes that make writing difficult to understand, too long, or put a barrier between the audience and message. Green comprehensively applies these points in the final section on common forms of business writing. Assessment All main points are applicable and articulated well, and directly support the thesis. Quick and clear information delivery is essential in the business environment; this means writing should be logical, economical, and easy to understand. Green argues that clarity is achieved by taking a stand, “When you’re forthright enough to take a position or recommend a course of action” (Green 2012, p 43). Writing without taking a stand leads to an unclear statement and ineffective use of the reader’s time. His second point, a writer requires having a purpose and should communicate it in a straightforward and plainspoken manner is paramount to successful writing. This addresses the “Why” of the writing, which is a question every business seeks to answer. Green suggest considering purpose before writing, and to ask continuously if each sentence is advancing that purpose. With the purpose established, the next step is to state it simply and clearly. A business that can do this can effectively communicate with its audience. Finally, there are things to avoid so that writing communicates effectively. With cross-functional teams and technological innovation in the workplace, it is important to avoid jargon, wordiness, and hyper-formalities. Green advocates using “we,” “our,” and “your” instead of “I” to add a personal touch to writing. Additionally, writing should be in the active voice to reduce word count and increase clarity. Acronyms should be avoided, but contractions should be used to avoid stuffiness. All of the points are useful tools for effective writing, and should be used liberally in the business environment. Green does an excellent job explaining why these points make writing effective and how to employ them. Strengths and Weaknesses The main strength of this book is that it “practices what it preaches,” meaning it communicates each topic clearly and concisely. Each chapter is to the point and succinct; there is no difficult language or hyper-formality to slow communication between the author and reader. The recap at the end of each chapter helps reinforce everything discussed and along with the appendixes, serves as a great place to look over when referencing the book. In general, the examples do an excellent job of demonstrating a concept, however sometimes the “before” examples come off as too poorly written to be believable (this example is then made effective as an “after” example). Also, the chapters on illustrations and appraisals leave much to be desired; the first refers the reader to another text, and the second isn’t much more than a list of phrases. Despite a few weaknesses, this book’s strengths easily carry it, making this usually boring topic into a page-turner. Survey The author does an excellent job of covering a wide array of topics and fitting them together in a logical and natural manner. The first section helps answer the questions of “why we write,” “who is our audience,” “how to start,” and “what to write.” Doing so, it covers the Madman-Architect-Carpenter-Judge process of writing. He ends this section discussing the use of graphics in writing. The focus of the next section is writing development. Discussing techniques to better clarify, summarize, and tighten the prose. Green follow this by discussing the importance of being plainspoken, using chronological sequencing, and having good continuity. He ends by explaining why proper grammar is important, and why critical feedback from peers is an excellent way to improve writing. The penultimate section is two chapters that advocate the proper use of pronouns and contractions and suggests avoiding acronyms and improper tone. The final section addressed popular forms of writing, using all the concepts discussed. E-mail, business letters, memos, reports, and appraisals are covered, usually in detail and with examples. Comparisons “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter,” by Blaise Pascal often comes to mind when reading this book. Pascal was a great writer, and it’s apt to compare the techniques of this book against that of great writers and prose. In all respects, this book compares favorably to other similar writings. One thing that’s great about this book is that it’s not afraid to suggest breaking with tradition. Green has no problem defending the use of contractions or less than formal writing to communicate effectively. He’s also inline with much contemporary business theory. Here’s a quote from another business book: “…Only the Wright brothers were able to inspire those around them…Only the Wright brothers started with Why.” (Sinek, 2009). It’s impressive that the first chapter of this book is about Why, and how that’s where you start. Compared to other books on writing, this book is shorter, simpler, and easier to read, not to mention inline with modern business theory. A much better and quicker read than a traditional textbook. References Garner, B. A. (2012). HBR guide to better business writing. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Review Press. Pascal, B. (1965). Les provinciales; ou, Les lettres écrites par Louis de Montalte à un provincial de ses amis et aux RR. PP. jésuites. (Cognet, L., Trans.) Paris: Éditions Garnier frères. Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York: Portfolio.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Do you remember in school when a teacher would assign a book and three months later, when the class ended, you felt like that book would have been more useful as kindling? I remember that for sure. This book is not like that. I'm currently getting my MBA online, and I would have to say this book will be going on the short list of books I will reference in the future. It is a quick crash course on the need to know principles for business writing. The principles it teaches are concise, meaningful, Do you remember in school when a teacher would assign a book and three months later, when the class ended, you felt like that book would have been more useful as kindling? I remember that for sure. This book is not like that. I'm currently getting my MBA online, and I would have to say this book will be going on the short list of books I will reference in the future. It is a quick crash course on the need to know principles for business writing. The principles it teaches are concise, meaningful, and applicable. You can take what you have learned at any point during this book and apply it almost immediately to your work. I would highly recommend reading and purchasing this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ngoc Le

    Strength - Contents are very helpful to one who are dealing with writing skill. - Know terminology "Test FRE" => Method to count the ease of reading. - Give example in detail. - Short Pages (191 page) => Short content => Short remember Weakness - Short teminology "HBR" is not explained at the beginning. - The content is tranlsated into Vietnamese style but some main content or example should be maintained in English. - In common. All contents in this book is not outstanding and different comprared with Strength - Contents are very helpful to one who are dealing with writing skill. - Know terminology "Test FRE" => Method to count the ease of reading. - Give example in detail. - Short Pages (191 page) => Short content => Short remember Weakness - Short teminology "HBR" is not explained at the beginning. - The content is tranlsated into Vietnamese style but some main content or example should be maintained in English. - In common. All contents in this book is not outstanding and different comprared with others. ***** Quote [Page 12] Let think that you'are a professional author before writing. [Page 13] Think about reason to write document and the needs of readers. [Page 14] Read your contents out lound. [Page 36] Write 3 main ideas (2 is short, 4 is many). In math only have 1,2,3 and many. [Page 46] Restrict your time when you writing draft (5=>10 minutes)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ben Lever

    This was a recommended text for a unit I'm studying, and it really didn't deliver on the promises made by the lecturer. In fact it was totally useless to someone with a writing background like me. However it is a very good general guide to business writing, and if that's something you struggle with then it genuinely is very good - it just wasn't for me. Fair warning though - the layout of the pages is stupid (the pages themselves are unusually tall and thin, and the type is very spaced out) so t This was a recommended text for a unit I'm studying, and it really didn't deliver on the promises made by the lecturer. In fact it was totally useless to someone with a writing background like me. However it is a very good general guide to business writing, and if that's something you struggle with then it genuinely is very good - it just wasn't for me. Fair warning though - the layout of the pages is stupid (the pages themselves are unusually tall and thin, and the type is very spaced out) so the page count doesn't really reflect the amount of content. It is very brief - with a normal layout it'd only have 2/3 as many pages

  7. 4 out of 5

    William Anderson

    Much of the content is advice you have heard before, but this book has amazing value. It provides clear instructions and fantastic comparisons between clear ways of communicating and ineffective ones. I recommended it to a member of my team and they have passed it along, almost everyone in my reporting tree has read it at this point. Since adopting what Ive learned I get better responses to emails I write, and my ideas are accepted more often. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing is a basic but e Much of the content is advice you have heard before, but this book has amazing value. It provides clear instructions and fantastic comparisons between clear ways of communicating and ineffective ones. I recommended it to a member of my team and they have passed it along, almost everyone in my reporting tree has read it at this point. Since adopting what Ive learned I get better responses to emails I write, and my ideas are accepted more often. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing is a basic but essential tool, I can't recommend it more. (there is a lot of pressure around writing a review on a book about writing).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ken Lenoir

    Great refresher on how to write well for business Why did I choose this book? Because I'd like to write more clearly and effectively in my business. What was my experience with reading the book? It gave some great examples of clear writing versus unclear writing. It's definitely worth reading a second time. There were plenty of gold nuggets such as the MACJ formula for planning papers and the distinction between passive voice and active voice was made clear. Would I recommend this book to others? Y Great refresher on how to write well for business Why did I choose this book? Because I'd like to write more clearly and effectively in my business. What was my experience with reading the book? It gave some great examples of clear writing versus unclear writing. It's definitely worth reading a second time. There were plenty of gold nuggets such as the MACJ formula for planning papers and the distinction between passive voice and active voice was made clear. Would I recommend this book to others? Yes. It's a fantastic short read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tri Le

    Simple, direct, and concise read on how to improve your business writing. Chapters are brief and compact with useful recaps. The author starts with a section on how to focus and start writing. Afterwards he discusses ways to develop your writing skills and further elaborates briefly on what to avoid when writing. He ends the book with suggested approaches on common forms of business writing (e-mails, memos, reports, etc.). There are helpful appendices about useful grammar and punctual rules alon Simple, direct, and concise read on how to improve your business writing. Chapters are brief and compact with useful recaps. The author starts with a section on how to focus and start writing. Afterwards he discusses ways to develop your writing skills and further elaborates briefly on what to avoid when writing. He ends the book with suggested approaches on common forms of business writing (e-mails, memos, reports, etc.). There are helpful appendices about useful grammar and punctual rules along with a primer of good usage. Very helpful and quick book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian Burrell

    This takes you through the basics to how to get the best results from different forms, such as letter and email. There are some great tips on plain English, or in this case American English. The appendices provide some really useful easy references. I found the early section on the thought process and structure when writing particularly of interest. For a general introduction or a refresh, if you are already using some of the techniques in the book, this is a good and not surprisingly easy read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suleiman Arabiat

    Lives up to its name: a guide with practical steps towards effective business writing. This book is straight forward, and progresses smoothly. The guidelines are put simply and in an organized manner, and the topics are in good order. One very useful outcome is the author's reference to a couple of other helpful guides/authors for written and visual communication; namely, Edward Tufte and Rudolf Flesch. Finally, the book's appendices are easily accessible and helpful for quick reference while writi Lives up to its name: a guide with practical steps towards effective business writing. This book is straight forward, and progresses smoothly. The guidelines are put simply and in an organized manner, and the topics are in good order. One very useful outcome is the author's reference to a couple of other helpful guides/authors for written and visual communication; namely, Edward Tufte and Rudolf Flesch. Finally, the book's appendices are easily accessible and helpful for quick reference while writing any form of business communication.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sterling

    This book is a simple yet informative read on better business writing. Since the topic is business writing, the author lives up to the topic with short but concise sentences, brief break downs of the topic and ways to get better. This guide also include examples that you can use to practice your writing and learn from other book examples. This book also has an appendix. I read this book in an hour and 30 minutes. Great book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trevor Sebastian

    A straightforward and informative book on writing in a business setting. Everything is covered from proposals to emails to memos. Although it was targeted for business writing, it was a great refresher on tightening up my writing structure in all aspects of writing. It's a quick read and has plenty of information. It may not be terribly helpful if you aren't constantly writing or sending emails in your career, but has some overall great tips on writing nonetheless. A straightforward and informative book on writing in a business setting. Everything is covered from proposals to emails to memos. Although it was targeted for business writing, it was a great refresher on tightening up my writing structure in all aspects of writing. It's a quick read and has plenty of information. It may not be terribly helpful if you aren't constantly writing or sending emails in your career, but has some overall great tips on writing nonetheless.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    The Guide to Better Business Writing is an excellent guide to the key elements of business writing. It's brutally concise, clear and easy to read, and has lots of helpful examples of good writing and bad. For good writers, it's an effective refresher. For those seeking to improve, there are numerous suggestions to implement. The Guide to Better Business Writing is an excellent guide to the key elements of business writing. It's brutally concise, clear and easy to read, and has lots of helpful examples of good writing and bad. For good writers, it's an effective refresher. For those seeking to improve, there are numerous suggestions to implement.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andreas Bodemer

    This book is broken up into short chapters that make it ideal for reading in the bathroom. If you want to look smart, keep a copy of this book by your office desk. Garner is an excellent writer and grammarian. He provides lucid and simple advice that can help you write more effectively. If you frequently write professional emails or memos, this book is for you (or your coworkers).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Sweeney

    I inhaled this book in a day. It was so helpful and had so many practical ideas for simple ways of practicing and improving your writing. I especially appreciate that it did not read like a style manual and really included the advice and approaches that are useful in developing effective and lasting business relationships through writing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Karin Nemec

    The book helps to brush up on English's grammar and punctuation rules. Further it gives the useful list of most commonly misspelled words in writing e.g. amend vs emend, appraise vs apprise, complementary vs complimentary, depreciate vs deprecate etc. Yet the part covering the structure and content of writing provided minimal novelty. The book helps to brush up on English's grammar and punctuation rules. Further it gives the useful list of most commonly misspelled words in writing e.g. amend vs emend, appraise vs apprise, complementary vs complimentary, depreciate vs deprecate etc. Yet the part covering the structure and content of writing provided minimal novelty.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This is a very good book on the basics of business writing. Most of it is common sense, but as the author duly notes, common sense is hardly common practice. There are at least a few good tips for even the best business writers out there.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed Alomaireeni

    simple & easy to read. I think you will get enough instructions on how to write letters, emails, and other forms of writing. It will equip you with writing skills in terms of business communication.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Morgan

    Fantastic read. It's not as "textbook" as I thought it would be and it provides a lot of clear basics for writing. It focuses heavily on the core and then touches on business-specific guidance. I would recommend it for anyone looking to improve their writing. Fantastic read. It's not as "textbook" as I thought it would be and it provides a lot of clear basics for writing. It focuses heavily on the core and then touches on business-specific guidance. I would recommend it for anyone looking to improve their writing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    Concise, plain, and useful. Better Business Writing yields a wealth of important information, and helpful tools for improving your writing, all within two hundred pages. Worth every penny, and its space on your bookshelf.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sofia Goya Outeiriño

    Very useful tips for better business writing. It’s for a basic level but the advice is very good and never gets old. I likes the four steps to writing something: the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge. Something I will definitely use. You will read this book very fast.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Worth reading just for the MACJ section. Concise, clear and engaging book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tuyet Phan

    Basic skills, recommend for fresh graduate students who are not familar with business emails.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Muthoni

    Really brought out simple things could do to enhance my business writing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emidia Felipe

    Very useful! Simple and practical advisory to improve your text even outside the corporative world.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Pinto

    nice read, clear and objective. the book uses a wide set of examples on how to improve your writing. I'm not a native speaker, and most of the described strategies were new to me. 5 stars for me nice read, clear and objective. the book uses a wide set of examples on how to improve your writing. I'm not a native speaker, and most of the described strategies were new to me. 5 stars for me

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daniel William

    Good depth and insights There is a considerable amount of explanation and examples on when to and when not to do things when writing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrei

    Short but pretty good advice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brad Partridge

    Great book on business writing.

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