Alred, Gerald J., Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu. The Business Writer's Handbook.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Author:||Barr, H. Buford|
|Publication:||Name: Communication Research Trends Publisher: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture ISSN: 0144-4646|
|Issue:||Date: June, 2009 Source Volume: 28 Source Issue: 2|
|Topic:||NamedWork: The Business Writer's Handbook, 9th ed. (Nonfiction work); The Handbook of Technical Writing, 9th ed. (Nonfiction work)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Alred, Gerald J.; Brusaw, Charles T.; Oliu, Walter E.; Oliu, Walter T.|
Alred, Gerald J., Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu. The
Business Writer's Handbook. (9th Edition). New York: St.
Martin's Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-31257510-6 (hbk). $44.95.
Alred, Gerald J., Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu. The Handbook of Technical Writing. (9th Edition). New York: St. Martin's Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-312-57512-0 (hbk). $44.95.
Do we really need more handbooks on writing?
The advances in communication technology since the introduction of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s has changed how, what, when and even why we communicate. The subsequent use of email, social networks, text messaging, and blogging has had a profound impact on how the English language is being used today. English is once again under serious attack. How so? "OMG TTTT we r ucwap, but wca? BBFN"
In the case of email, the very nature of its speed, urgency, and instant gratification results in horrible grammar, misspellings, words without thought, loss of proper respect, and massive distribution.
In addition, one cannot discount the impact of English as a Second Language (ESL) on rhetoric and proper grammar. What can we do to save
the English language? Another writer's handbook? Maybe.
To research the question of our need for more writing instructional material, I went to The Book Store, Amazon.com, and searched "writing." Amazon.com produced 866,622 results. Honing the search to "writer's handbook" produced 6,177 sources. "Business writer's handbook" produced 1,497 and "technical writing handbook" generated 657 results. Plenty of information, readily available.
My next thought, online, of course. Google Search took me to exponential heights. Any printed resource must compete with the preferred medium of 80% of the country and one of the preferred media of 100% of youth and young adults.
Among the best online writing sources that I found are: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/ (University of Wisconsin), http://www.mrsalex.com/writing/ handbook.htm (Writing it Right!), and http://www.gmu .edu/departments/writingcenter/wcref.html (Writing Center at George Mason University).
So, do we need more writing instruction handbooks? In teaching effective writing, rhetoric, and communication, my observation is that we do NOT need more sources. We need well-known, easy-to- use, enticing-to-use sources of proper grammar, style, and technique. We need the assurance that the rules of English are understood, accepted, internalized, and used in ALL communication.
Let's take a look at Alred, Brusaw and Oliu's The Business Writer's Handbook. Opening the cover, one will notice the book is organized by the purpose of the writing, the final outcome, and the medium of delivery. This includes business reports, correspondence, resumes, visual support, presentations, and research. The authors have done an excellent job of integrating Web 2.0 tools such as web sites, blogs, and emails with traditional print.
The 9th edition does a fine job of addressing ESL and the typical problems many face when attempting to learn and use English as a second or third language. The handbook completes its offering with more traditional rules of grammar, sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation, and style.
The subject matter is presented and accessible in alphabetical order, which makes sense on the surface. However, one quickly notes that the orderly, logical arrangement of content by topic gets lost as these subjects are now dispersed throughout the book based on the first letter of the subject or topic. So you have to know precisely what you are looking for to find it easily and quickly. Where is Google when we need it?
The orange topic headings and highlighted words make the search a bit easier once you are in the vicinity of what you want to know. The Handbook has many useful and pertinent examples, visuals, and illustrations to demonstrate the proper use of the topic under discussion. Of note: job interviewing techniques, typography, presentations, grant proposals, resumes, and writing for the web. Under "e-mail" the authors do address business decorum, writing style, confidentiality, and frequent malpractices. I commend this expansion but it could go further.
My conclusion for your consideration: Alred, Brusaw, and Oliu's 9th edition of The Business Writer's Handbook certainly covers the subject. It is an excel lent and complete handbook for business writers. It captures the transition to online media, but stops short of social networks and our newest challenge, the 140-character world of Twitter.
The information is here, but to entice the Millennial Generation to include the handbook in their backpack is an entirely different story. It may be time to take the 10th edition online.
Now moving to Alred, Brusaw and Oliu's other 9th edition, Handbook of Technical Writing. It's been said "Imitation is the sincerest flattery." That being the case, the authors are in love with their work. This Handbook is a clone of the Business Writer's Handbook and so it should be!
There are numerous purposes for writing with the one constant objective to communicate. For whatever audience and for whatever purpose, good writing is good writing. Only errorless prose, precise editing, and the flair to spark an emotion within the reader constitute good or even great writing.
Both handbooks present an excellent organization system and process to present and allow the reader to find the guidelines, rules of grammar, techniques of style, and examples of desired results. Why change? Why mess with a process that works?
While both handbooks contain the basics of good writing, the Handbook of Technical Writing goes a bit deeper into to the title topic, but NOT as extensively as one would have thought. Technical literature, documentation, instruction manuals, data manuals, tutorials, specification sheets, and application notes have long been essential to marketing and selling high technology products and services. Today, many semiconductor companies, for example, have very smart engineers that know little about capturing the technical superiority, differentiation, and essence of their products, and packaging that information to enable design engineers to determine if and where they can use the device.
To be a true technical writing handbook this work would have to have gone much more in depth on the desired outcomes than it does.
My conclusion: both handbooks are rich in content and contain a Wal-Mart of vital information for either novice or experienced writers to have at their fingertips. There is approximately 75% duplication in the two books. And that is as it should be. The formatting makes it easy to use the handbook IF you know what you are trying to locate.
There is a tremendous opportunity to take a 10th edition of both handbooks online. Let's hope the authors will hear that calling. In the meantime, make room next to your computer for either of these excellent works. Professor Strunk would be pleased at how far we've come.
--H. Buford Barr
Santa Clara University
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