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Want to be a better business writer? Read this book.

Updated: May 1, 2023

By Jill O’Mahony Stewart, MS, MA

 

It’s so on-brand for Josh Bernoff, author of “Writing Without Bullshit,” to provide a guide to his 2018 book so readers can make the most of it. That’s just how he thinks and how he writes – with an eye toward efficiency and effectiveness.


Granted, the book’s profane title can be a bit daunting. It took me a while to come to grips with it. But I've adopted it as a textbook, and it is my go-to resource for teaching good writing: what it is and how to get better at it. The book is a quick read, easy to navigate, and very practical. Read it and your writing will improve immediately.


In Bernoff’s own words, “I designed ‘Writing Without Bullshit’ so you can get a lot out of it. Whether you write emails, reports, web sites, blog posts, press releases, brochures, or anything else, it will help your career and your confidence.” And then he follows his own advice with a numbered list of reasons to read the book.


Here are the subheads:


WWBS is helpful because

  1. It’s serious, but it’s fun.

  2. It’s easy to dip in and out of.

  3. I understand why you write the way you do.

  4. I address the whole writing process.

  5. It’s modern.

  6. It’s for business writers.

  7. There is a high insight density.

You’ll need to read his full blog post and infographic for details. But, as one of my favorite better-business-writing books, here are the specifics I love:


  • He addresses the value of research and planning as part of the writing process:

    • Think first

    • Plan purposefully

    • If you have writer’s block, you aren’t ready to write. Do more research.

  • He is direct and succinct, with chapter titles that get to the point:

    • Eliminate weasel words

    • Embrace edits

    • Change the BS culture

  • He reminds us of what we already know, but may not follow consistently:

    • Write short

    • Purge passive voice

    • Replace jargon


Just as Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” was the bible of good writing in its time, WWBS is that book today. If you are squeamish, get past the title, but appreciate its message and Bernoff’s Iron Imperative: “Respect the reader’s time more than your own.”


Take a deeper dive and read the blog. Better yet, buy and read the book. If writing is a big part of your job responsibilities, you won’t regret it.

 

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.


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