Updated: May 2
By Jill O’Mahony Stewart, MS, MA
Danny Rubin’s 2015 book “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?” is the modern day “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. The earlier volume was a bible to budding writers [including this one] for decades. Rubin’s book is more contemporary and more in-step with today’s writers. Even the title – focusing on emails – is realistic for the writing most of us do these days.
And excellent writing skills have never been in greater demand.
Even workers without clear-cut communications responsibilities are required to write nearly every day. Who talks on the phone anymore? Email has replaced both phone calls and face-to-face encounters, including casual business-related conversations. And text messaging has also become a regular way to stay connected, even for business.
So, we all need to write well: effectively, efficiently, and clearly. And Rubin has plenty of how-to examples for tightening up prose, using correct grammar, and generally crafting more purposeful business messages.
Rubin’s book is invaluable. He details how to be both brief and interesting, and he also provides templates for many common writing assignments, including cover letters.
For writing workshops, I use the “add a layer” exercise to show participants how to make simple statements more interesting and more specific. Add a layer is a great counterbalance to the charge to be brief. We all need to tell our stories quickly, keeping our key message or ask in mind. Include enough details and get to the point with add a layer, which is particularly useful for emails, but for other writing as well.
Danny’s book is a valuable addition to any aspiring comms professional’s library. As its subtitle promises, “Game-changing templates for networking and the job search,” placing it squarely in the center of professional development and life-long learning.
Jill O’Mahony Stewart is a writing teacher and coach. From 1986-2008 she managed Stewart Communications, a PR firm devoted to “issues that matter.” She is also an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University’s College of Communication. She loves helping students and professionals become better writers.