Books for New Writers

If you’ve ever had to help a new writer get up to speed, you may find this list of books helpful. I recommend that any new writer have these on her bookshelf. For background on context that generated and tested this list, check out [Mentoring a New Writer->mentoring-a-new-writer]. What do you think? What would you add or change?

- Steve

Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook for Writers and Editors by Gretchen Hargis et alii.
Chapter 2 is available online as a PDF. This is one of the most helpful and stunningly written books I have encountered. This is a gold mine of information. Pick this up. It will serve you for years to come.

The Microsoft Manual of Style by Microsoft Press
The book comes with a CD that holds manual in PDF format. What can I say. You gotta have it. "Choose or select?" "Mice or mouse devices?" It’ll come up sometime.

Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Documentation by Alan Pringle and Sarah O’Keefe
Chapter 14 and section of chapters 3 and 8 are online. Generally quite good, extremely readable, and wonderfully laid out and chunked. Careful with the section on what format to choose for a screen shot and such. It’s just plain wrong. It also fails to mention that ALT+Print Screen is OK for popping screen shots into non image-editing programs. But the moment you move it from the clipboard into Microsoft Paint, for example, you’re working with something at 96 dpi, way too few dpi for printing.

Untechnical Writing: How to Write About Technical Subjects and Products So Anyone Can Understand by Michael Bremer
Amazing work. He knows what he’s talking about, writes clearly with great humor, and presents his information such that you can’t wait to read the next chapter. Really!

Is the Help Helpful? How to Create Online Help That Meets Your Users’ Needs by Jean Weber
Wow. Talk about a superb book. Weber obviously cares about her audiences. She’s like a confident, knowledgeable, gentle, and comfortable friend. When you purchase this, you get access to it (at the publisher’s Web site) in PDF format.

Hot Text: Web Writing that Works by Jonathon and Lisa Price
Much of the text (not all, but almost all) is available as separate PDFs at the Price’s Web site. Absolutely outstanding and immediately useful and helpful.

The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun
This is definitely as good as you’ve heard. Its real title should probably make you realize more quickly that it’s about leading projects where you have to manage a group of folks designing something who haven’t typically taken users into account and who’ve never noticed that their efforts lead to something greater than the sum of its parts. A charming and quite hilarious introduction to leading software development projects.

Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation by Kurt Ament
The title is somewhat misleading. This deceptively small tome hides a wealth of information you’ll be surprised didn’t take up 10x the room. At once a style guide, a theory of what modularity means, and an example of what it talks about.