The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E.B. White

Take heed, aspiring writers. This little book is essential reading for all of you; it is, in effect, your field manual. Don’t let its tiny 100-page size fool you; it is crammed with important information about the English language, and there is zero waffle.

The book is divided into five chapters: (1) Elementary Rules of Usage; (2) Elementary Principals of Composition; (3) A Few Matters of Form; (4) Words and Expressions Commonly Misused; (5) An Approach to Style. Each chapter is broken down into a series of points, rather than reams of prose. Ideal for reference.

In defending this book’s must-have status, here’s a little challenge to the aspiring writer. How many of you can answer yes to all the following questions?

1. Would you have known that a phrase such as “as to whether” is better rendered simply “whether”?

2. Did you know that there is no such word as “alright,” but the correct form is always “all right”?

3. Do you know the difference between “disinterested” and “uninterested”?

4. Which of these words is correct English: “flammable” or “inflammable”?

5. Can you tell when to use “that” and when to use “which” (e.g. “the dog that/which pooped on my lawn”)?

6. Would you have known that in cases where the word “very” is in front of a word, both words can usually be changed for a single stronger one (e.g. “very tired” and “exhausted”)?

If you can’t answer yes to all the above questions, study The Elements of Style, and supercharge your writing skills. Far too many independent writers are taking the sloppy, easy route. Don’t do it.