Advertising
Advertising

10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills

10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills

Whether you’re learning English as an additional language or you’re aiming to hone your writing skills, there are countless books out there that promise to help you ameliorate your skills. Some of those books are fabulous, while others are practically useless. Let’s take a look at some of the best books to help you improve your English, whether you’re an ESL student or an aspiring novelist.

Beginner’s English (suitable for ESL students)

Words-are-categorical

    Words are Categorical series, by Brian P. Cleary

    I absolutely love these books for children and ESL adults alike, as they clarify parts of speech in a way that’s hilarious and endearing. With titles such as Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? and Thumbtacks, Earwax, Lipstick, Dipstick: What Is a Compound Word?, you know you’re in for a fun time. Although the link above will take you to a boxed set, the books are also available individually.

    Mac-English-covers-1-young-640x406

      MacMillan English School Books

      These are essential for anyone who’s learning English as a second language (ESL). English is an extremely complicated language, and unless you’ve grown up speaking, reading, and writing it, there are subtle nuances that take a long time to pick up. These books cover a wide range of skill levels, and can help you polish up both your writing and conversational skills.

      Advertising

      General/Intermediate English (high school/early college level)

      eats-shoots-and-leaves-front

        Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss

        This book is a brilliant reference for writers of all ages, but I tend to recommend it to high school and college students because it’s funny, clever, and explains punctuation in a memorable way. Remember that good punctuation is vital, as it’s the key to either knowing your shit, or knowing you’re shit.

        big-book-of-words

          The Big Book of Words You Should Know, by David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, and Justin Cord Hayes

          If you’d like to expand your vocabulary, this is the book for you. By learning words like “halcyon” and “sagagious” (which you may come across in books or wish to add into your own writing) as well as “schlimazel” and “thaumaturgy” (ask your English teacher to define those on the spot!), your fluency with this magnificent language will explode in the most brilliant way imaginable.

          Advertising

          mother-tongue

            The Mother Tongue – English, and How It Got That Way, by Bill Bryson

            Everything this author writes is pure genius, and The Mother Tongue is no exception. Bryson weaves a fascinating tale about the origins of the English language, and peppers it with solid insight about the utter weirdness that abounds in the language.

            gardner_art_of_fiction1

              The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, by John Gardner

              A vital resource for anyone who intends to write fiction, this book will help you craft a refined sentence, develop characters that readers don’t want to disembowel, and avoid trite cliches. Gardner’s a tough teacher, but if you can put your own delicate ego aside, you can learn a lot from this book.

              elements-of-style

                The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

                This is probably one of the best go-to books for composition and style. If you only want a few reference books in your library that deal with English grammar and writing, let this be one of them.

                Advertising

                Gregg Reference Manual

                  The Gregg Reference Manual, by William Sabin

                  Probably the most comprehensive guide for style, grammar, usage, and formatting, it’s as beneficial to students as it is for those in business. It really does contain everything you need to know about composing documents, essays, and letters, with tips on how to address various people (senators, bishops, military personnel), and much more.

                  Advanced English (college grads, professional writers)

                  misplaced-modifier

                    The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, by Bonnie Trenga

                    Even those who have a fair bit of writing experience can mess up when it comes to modifiers, and this fun little volume prods your brain-meat to remind you of proper word placement when constructing sentences.

                    Advertising

                    Chicago Style

                      The Chicago Manual of Style

                      This book is probably the most invaluable reference for anyone who writes for a North American audience. Whether you’re addressing a letter to a foreign dignitary, citing a study when creating an academic paper, or proofreading another person’s work, this book will guide you through all the writing rules you could ever need.

                      As a side recommendation, I find the Oxford Style Manual to be of great help when working for clients in the UK, as there are certain differences in writing standards on either side of the pond, and having a strong grasp of both can only be of benefit to any writer.

                      There are many other resources that may be of benefit to writers of all skill levels, but the books on this list are some of the best and most well-rounded. They’ll provide a great foundation to one’s writing practice, and although doing so may seem counterintuitive, writers may be surprised at what can be gleaned by revisiting some of the basics, or delving into manuals that may seem more advanced than what they’re accustomed to.

                      More by this author

                      20 Online Resources for Free E-Books 10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills 10 Things That Even You Can Do to Change the World 10 Essential Oils to Always Have at Home 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day

                      Trending in Communication

                      1The Gentle Art of Saying No 217 Ted Talks for Kids to Inspire Little Minds to Do Big Things 310 Toxic Persons You Should Just Get Rid Of 4Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts 5Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

                      Read Next

                      Advertising
                      Advertising

                      The Gentle Art of Saying No

                      The Gentle Art of Saying No

                      No!

                      It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

                      Advertising

                      But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

                      Advertising

                      What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

                      Advertising

                      But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

                      1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
                      2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
                      3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
                      4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
                      5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
                      6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
                      7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
                      8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
                      9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
                      10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                      Advertising

                      Read Next