The elements of style—required reading .jpgIf you’re a writer and, apparently, a coder, you can’t go wrong with “The Elements of Style.” As Roger Angell writes in the foreword:

Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time. Less frequent practitioners—the job applicant; the business executive with a Faulkner assignment; the graduate-school student with her thesis proposal; the writer of a letter of condolence—often get stuck in an awkward passage or find a muddle on their screen and then blame themselves. What should be easy and flowing looks tangled or feeble or overblown—not what was meant at all. What’s wrong with me, each one thinks. Why can’t I get it right?

Well, if that’s how you feel about writing, then this delightfully thin book is certainly for you. The book ends with a number of sage advices, such as:

  • Place yourself in the background.
  • Write in a way that comes naturally.
  • Do not overwrite.
  • Do not overstate.
  • Avoid fancy words.

And much more, all of which should be read and reread. You can get it for free online or here. I got my brother the illustrated edition before he left for his studies in creative writing, but I personally prefer the non-illustrated kind—keeping it essential and portable. Though the other kind makes for a nice gift.