Customer Review

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my most-recommended books for technical people, April 6, 2002
This review is from: E-Writing: 21st-Century Tools for Effective Communication (Paperback)
I manage a team of software developers. Like me, they and other technical people tend to be too verbose in their emails, not being clear about what action needs to be taken, formatting poorly, etc.
What we learn liberal arts colleges is an academic communication style that is too verbose, takes too long to get to the point, and full of information in all the wrong places. Technical schools, on the other hand, often don't teach anything about writing, sometimes leaving their graduates unclear on how to communicate except on detailed, technical subjects.
Booher has written a very accessible book that addresses good writing from a non-pedantic, not-your-high-school-english class perspective.
I kept this book at my side while writing a proposal that had to be content-dense yet short and readable. I have since bought several copies of her book to hand out to people around the office.
Communication is very difficult, made even harder by the 'words only' content of email. Today we are interacting primarily in email with our customers and the management chain. Booher explains how to significantly increase the chance that your emails are read and acted upon, providing good boosts to your career, reduced chances of "what do you mean you asked me to do something?" problems, and ways for you to improve your reputation as an effective, competent employee.
Her attention to whitespace and formatting is, in my opinion, very useful. I've since become a lot more aware of how much more readable my communications are when I take time to include lists, blank lines, headers, etc. to help the reader break up my content into digestable chunks. A key learning: remembering that the reader is not simply waiting on the edge of his chair to devour every word of my carefully crafted email but, rather, sees it as yet another stream of words in the midst of a flood that he has to quickly evaluate for its usefulness and relevance.
She includes many "Good", "Bad", "Okay but could be better" examples for those who learn by example, rules for those who like rules, and just the right amount of verbiage to convey the concepts without violating her own rules of conciseness.
I have not found the 'email ettiquette' portions nearly as useful, nor the detailed grammar section. But if you're new to office email, or need a brushup on your high school grammar (complete with good examples), you will find them helpful.
Despite those two sections, I found the book gave more than enough value for its cost, and it has earned a place on my short 'review on occassion and keep close to hand' list of books.
From the length of this review, you can see I haven't completely mastered all of her techniques. But she has led to noticable improvements in my writing, and I'm on the right path.
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