On Writing Well

William Zinsser’s On Writing Well isn’t a business book per se, but reading and following his advice is one of the highest leverage things you can do for your career, especially if you are (or aspire to be) a leader. Why? Well, you won’t land big deals every day. You won’t fire people every day (I hope!). You won’t pitch investors every day. You won’t launch or kill product lines every day. And you won’t give grand speeches every day. But you will communicate in writing, every single day. All day.

And because clear and effective writing comes from clear and effective thinking, not only will you get more effective at communicating with those around you, you’ll get better at thinking. How cool is that? And as Zinsser points out, if you don’t work to improve the clarity and simplicity of your writing, there are consequences:

Managers at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind. Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker or a person too arrogant, or too dumb, or too lazy to organize his thoughts. Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or good will you need. If what you write is ornate, or pompous, or fuzzy, that’s how you’ll be perceived. The reader has no other choice.

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