Recently, I was asked the following:
I’d like to improve the quality of my writing and have been looking for a book to help with this. Not just with grammar and style (although I’m sure I could use it) but with general tips, exercises, examples, etc. Anything that could help me with getting my ideas out clearly and making writing more enjoyable.
As it happens, I have one book in particular to recommend. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott: Lamott is brilliant at reminding writers why they got into writing in the first place. She’s pretty light on the exercises, but she describes the methods she uses to keep herself going and they’re easy to adapt to a personal writing practice.
I have dozens of books on writing on my shelves, but I come back to Lamott regularly. If there’s a particular type of writing your looking at, there are a few niche books worth considering, but Lamott covers everything. I might also recommend picking up a couple of stylebooks — I tend to use AP throughout my work, unless a project specifically requires a different style. That even goes for fiction. I find that having a set approach to questions like whether to capitalize someone’s title makes the whole process go that much faster.
Beyond that, I think it’s critical to read regularly. Read every day if you can. See how other writers use language and craft their work. You don’t have to focus on your particular niche, either. If you write magazine articles, reading fiction can help you just as much as reading magazine articles similar to your work. Going further afield may even help more: reading somethig drastically different than your everyday material can get you out of a rut. The same goes for writing, of course: the only way to really get better at writing is to do an awful lot of it.