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I was wondering if anyone knew of a good book to read about writing essays, or any ways to improve clarity in my writing. Is it something best discovered by myself or would it be something I can learn from others?

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Guest Guest_AshleyAyn

There are two books about writing by AR: _The Art of Fiction_ & _The Art of Non-Fiction_. I have read her book on writing fiction but I haven't read the one on non-fiction. You'd probably heard of both of these but I thought I would list them just in case!

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Hi Ashley! Good to see you here.

Alex, I agree that Ayn Rand's books on writings are a great place to start if you haven't read them already. I liked the book on fiction writing better, but that's probably just because I want to be a novelist. The book on non-fiction is also very good, and will give you some great ideas on how to improve your writing.

I think that Rob Tracinski also has a book on non-fiction writing in the works, but I'm not sure exactly when that might be released. The OAC also offers writing classes taught by Rob that have good examples and exercises that will help you better understand how to structure an essay and improve lots of other aspects of your writing as well.

Writing is definitely something that can be taught, but like all learning, your own effort of course plays a fundamental role.

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Umm, guys, Ayn Rand is a great writer but there's plenty of other great writers out there and other people have a lot of advice for the new writer as well. In other words, the sun does not rise and set on Ayn Rand.

My favorite book on writing has to be Joseph Williams' Style. It's not about writing per se, but more about editing to make your style better. It is replete with excellent advice.

Going down the list, I would recommend Zinsser's On Writing Well and the book Clear and Simple As the Truth, which I haven't quite finished reading yet but has a philosophic bent that I really like.

Beyond that, the key to good writing is clarity and that means you've got to get really tight with grammar. There's tons of good grammar books out there (you generally can't go wrong with them), but my favorite is called Sentences and Thinking by Norman Foerster because it attempts to connect the unit of grammar (the sentence) with cognition and does so quite successfully. I'm pretty sure it's completely out of print in that version (mine's copyrighted like 1916 or something) but there's a newer edition out with a different name entitled Grammar and Thinking or Words and Thinking—I don't recall which.

I could go on and on, but I'm a little constrained right now with a new baby so I don't have a lot of time to write about writing. My suggestion is to look around the field: there are better writers than Ayn Rand (though there aren't any better thinkers in my opinion).

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Umm, guys, Ayn Rand is a great writer but there's plenty of other great writers out there and other people have a lot of advice for the new writer as well. In other words, the sun does not rise and set on Ayn Rand.

Umm, bbrown, what is this in response to? Did anyone deny this?

Get a grip. :unsure:

Just because there are other good writers who have advice for beginning writers doesn't mean that what Rand has to say about writing doesn't have any worth, so how were the recommendations to read her books on the subject out of line? (Especially considering that this is a board about Objectivism, and someone asking for advice on a board like this is probably interested specifically in what Objectivism has to say on the topic--though not exclusively, about which you're correct, but which no one denied.)

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I would recommend Zinsser's On Writing Well

I recommend this book too. Elements of Style by Strunk and White is good as well.

A good dictionary is essential. If you can find a used one, any edition of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary based on Webster's New international Dictionary, second edition, is excellent. The third edition is not nearly as good because it is more "permissive." I also like American Heritage because of the useful usage notes. Don't buy Webster's New World dictionary, which is completely different from Webster's New Collegiate and not as good.

A thesaurus can be useful. Get a conceptual one like the original Roget's, not an alphabetical one.

Chicago Manual of Style and Words into Type are the standards for grammar in the publishing industry; the former is more for academic publishing.

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Just because there are other good writers who have advice for beginning writers doesn't mean that what Rand has to say about writing doesn't have any worth, so how were the recommendations to read her books on the subject out of line?  (Especially considering that this is a board about Objectivism, and someone asking for advice on a board like this is probably interested specifically in what Objectivism has to say on the topic--though not exclusively, about which you're correct, but which no one denied.)

Basically, Alex asked about good books on writing. The only responses were Ayn Rand's books and that Tracinski was working on a book. I felt like it would be a disservice to leave it at that. If the person asked "What did Ayn Rand write on the subject of writing?" then those would be sufficient. Not every question is an opportunity to proselytize.

No need to get bent out of shape. I was just noting that there are some really good books on writing that were not written by Ayn Rand. The books by her were cribbed from taped lectures she gave and were probably not even accurately transcribed—the editors both talk about how they reorganized for clarity and that some sections were redacted because they were repetitive or unnecessary.

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Basically, Alex asked about good books on writing. The only responses were Ayn Rand's books and that Tracinski was working on a book. I felt like it would be a disservice to leave it at that. If the person asked "What did Ayn Rand write on the subject of writing?" then those would be sufficient. Not every question is an opportunity to proselytize.

bbrown--

Yes, it is true that the first couple of responses to Alex's question were to recommend the Objectivist work on the topic (work that offers a perspective that is valuable and in some respects unique). But those were just the immediate responses posted within the first 24 hours of his posing the question.

Nowhere was it implied in those first two responses that the recommendations given covered the whole of the topic or that it should be left at that. My recommendations were simply the first things off the top of my head. I personally own many other books on writing; I just didn't have the time at the moment to make an exhaustive catalogue of them, so I just recommended the items that had been of the greatest personal benefit to me and that I thought would be of the most immediate interest to someone on this board and would answer the question posed.

I appreciate the recommendations that you gave; it's not like I'm hostile to them simply because they're not "Objectivist." However, you could have made your recommendations without the rude comments regarding the previous ones (which give the impression that you're hostile to them, simply because they are Objectivist--which is just weird, since this is an Objectivist board, after all).

Now, unless you still have a problem with it, let's just put this unpleasantness behind us, shall we?

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Buy the Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style. It's less than $10 and worth ten times as much. It covers every mistake that anyone would ever notice and many more that you will begin to notice after reading it. It's an invaluable reference work.

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