The best books for writing persuasive messages that win what you want

Who am I?

Early in my career I landed a job as a magazine editor. Shazam! I could publish my own articles! But I discovered that I actually had no idea how to write anything interesting, English major though I’d been. So I began to figure out what makes writing work. Over decades as a journalist, corporate communicator, and consultant, I did learn. I also saw colleagues miss their best opportunities, even screw up their lives, by writing badly—unpersuasively. And a mission was born: to share the tools and techniques of powerful communication. I’ve created dozens of workshops for businesspeople and professionals, taught graduate students, and now happily author books jammed with practical advice. 

I wrote...

Business Writing for Dummies

By Natalie Canavor,

Book cover of Business Writing for Dummies

What is my book about?

Good writing is today’s secret sauce of success—the indispensible tool for connecting with other people, winning our opportunities, and advocating for what we believe in. Good writing doesn’t mean “correctness.” It means giving readers the right persuasive substance because at heart every message is “an ask,” from meet me for lunch to hire me, agree with my idea, fund this program. 

Business Writing for Dummies gives readers a systematic way of deciding what to say and how to say it in every situation. It demonstrates how to sharpen strategic thinking, use writing to build relationships, and fix “mechanical” weaknesses with easy commonsense techniques. The book leads users to advance their skills step by step, and also works as a comprehensive resource for make-or-break occasions.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Sentences and Paragraphs

Natalie Canavor Why did I love this book?

Where does persuasive writing start? Whether you’re writing fiction, journalism, or a business message, good sentences are the key. Write good sentences and you write well in all fields. Bad sentences doom your writing. This tight 76-page book shows how to achieve simple, clear sentences, and at the same time build in power and even drama. Euchner moves on to cover paragraphs: how to find the focus of each and create logical, one-idea units. This is the book I wish I’d been given somewhere along the line in school, or later—it would have saved me a lot of trial-and-error! Like Euchner, I believe you need not study grammar rules to write well—that route has always put me to sleep.

By Charles Euchner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sentences and Paragraphs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ernest Hemingway one remarked that the ultimate challenge of writing is to produce "one true sentence." If you can write one great sentence, you can write two, three, and more great sentences. If you can write many great sentences, line after line, you can master any writing project from a school paper to a published book.

So: Can you craft “one true sentence,” again and again?

Sentences and Paragraphs, by Charles Euchner, is the completely updated best-selling and most authoritative book available on the essential two units of writing. Building on the foundation of The Golden Rule of Writing, Charles…

Book cover of On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Natalie Canavor Why did I love this book?

This is the “classic guide to writing nonficition,” says the cover, and it’s true. Reading it fueled my own motivation to develop practical ways for people to improve their own writing with easily learned techniques, shortcuts, and “insider” tips. Zinsser’s most recent update is the 30th Anniversary Edition, 2006, so don’t expect coverage of contemporary media. The book is journalism-based and later chapters focus on writing articles, but the first few chapters remain golden. “Clear thinking becomes clear writing,” Zinsser says. “Simplify, prune, and strive for order.” His best gift to us: demonstrating how to cut any copy to its core. Beyond helping readers with the mechanics, he reminds us of the need for humanity and warmth in writing.

By William Zinsser,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked On Writing Well as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet.

Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more…

Book cover of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Collector's Edition

Natalie Canavor Why did I love this book?

It’s one thing to advocate for simple, clear writing—and another to do it consistently. For the most inspiring demonstration of these principles look to Ernest Hemingway. Read even one of his short stories, or any of his novels or reportage, for in-action proof of how convincing we can be by using the most basic English: short everyday words derived from English’s early Anglo-Saxon history, and unadorned, straightforward sentences. Note how the most profound ideas, emotions, and subtle interactions can be communicated with spare language, nearly absent of descriptive words. How to generate this kind of impact with the writing most of us do every day is a central goal of my own book. TIP: a helpful online resource for simplifying copy is found at… 

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fourth in the series of new annotated editions of Ernest Hemingway’s work, edited by the author’s grandson Seán and introduced by his son Patrick, this “illuminating” (The Washington Post) collection includes the best of the well-known classics as well as unpublished stories, early drafts, and notes that “offer insight into the mind and methods of one of the greatest practitioners of the story form” (Kirkus Reviews).

Ernest Hemingway is a cultural icon—an archetype of rugged masculinity, a romantic ideal of the intellectual in perpetual exile—but, to his countless readers, Hemingway remains a literary force much greater than his image.…

Book cover of Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style, Substance, and Clarity

Natalie Canavor Why did I love this book?

Why do I recommend a book on speechwriting? For the same reasons my book covers spoken communication. Good speeches base on the written word and in turn, yield many lessons for all writers. For example, “sayability” is a hallmark of writing that works, and a good way to check yourself. Noonan’s book also reminds us of what matters most: Deciding what you want to say—the substance. Fancy language never camouflages empty thought. Rather than trying to manipulate people, reach them with sincerity and specific language that’s “simple, unadorned, direct, declarative.” Noonan recommends appealing to the brain with logic. Psychologists, meanwhile, stress that we make most decisions based on emotion—but I think both are right: Persuasive writing reaches both heart and mind. 

By Peggy Noonan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Simply Speaking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Advice from Peggy Noonan:"The most moving thing in a speech is its logic. It's not the flowery words or flourishes, it's not the sentimental exhortations, it's never the faux poetry we're all subjected to these days. It's the logic behind your case. A good case well argued and well said is inherently moving. It shows respect for the brains of the listeners. There is an implicit compliment in it. It shows you're a serious person and understand that you are talking to other serious people.

No speech should last more than 20 minutes. Why? Because Ronald Reagan said so. Reagan…

Book cover of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

Natalie Canavor Why did I love this book?

Warren Buffet, the famous investor, is also revered as a master communicator. His annual Letters to Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders are models of clear, transparent writing. They are the best showcases I know for the impact of presenting difficult material in “plain English.” Buffet makes financial information accessible and even interesting to the layperson with an unassuming colloquial tone, humor, anecdotes, and language based on the concrete short words of natural speech. He always delivers substance, even acknowledging his own poor decisions.

The enviable result: he generates trust, the critical ingredient of persuasion. I love introducing students to Buffet’s writing and seeing them analyze what works so well. The letters are available online, but this book usefully collects them along with other Buffet writings and commentary.

By Lawrence A. Cunningham, Warren Buffett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Essays of Warren Buffett as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fifth edition of The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America continues a 25-year tradition of collating Warren Buffett's philosophy in a historic collaboration between Mr. Buffett and Prof. Lawrence Cunningham. As the book Buffett autographs most, its popularity and longevity attest to the widespread appetite for this unique compilation of Mr. Buffett’s thoughts that is at once comprehensive, non-repetitive, and digestible. New and experienced readers alike will gain an invaluable informal education by perusing this classic arrangement of Mr. Buffett's best writings.

“Larry Cunningham has done a great job at collating our philosophy.”—Warren Buffett

"Larry Cunningham takes…

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Book cover of Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

Bruce Tate

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What is my book about?

The plan was insane. The trap seemed to snap shut on Bruce and Maggie Tate, an isolation forced on them by the pandemic and America's growing political factionalism. Something had to change.

Maggie's surprising answer: buy a boat, learn to pilot it, and embark on the Great Loop. With no experience, and knowing little about seafaring, diesel motors, or navigation, Maggie, Bruce, and the family dog decided to take on the six-thousand-mile journey down inland rivers, around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and across the Great Lakes. They would have to navigate canals, rivers, seas, and locks. But along the way, they made new lifelong friends and were forever changed.

For nine months, Bruce and Maggie navigated shallow rivers, bottomless lakes, joy, and loss. Against all odds, they conquered the Great Loop, and along the way, found common cause across political divides with new friends while blowing the walls off their world.

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

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