Like learning how to build a fire without a match, or find North without a compass, or why not to argue with a stranger who’s called The Hulk, learning to write well can be a basic tool of survival. You need to— in fact you simply have to know how to write. And no, we’re not talking about The Great American Novel. More likely we’re talking about the Great American Email, or the Great American Resumé , or the Great American Term Paper, Letter or Report. Learning to write them well can be your passport out of the wilderness and into the stuff you want: the job, the opportunity, the customer, or the check.

This book, then, is meant to be a primer on writing well and a guide for applying it to necessary, practical, everyday uses.

It’s based on a college course I’d given at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and originally designed to help students on the verge of being deported into the world. These were students of all ages— from the 18-to-20’s to the newly divorced 40’s to the newly retired adventurers embarking on third careers. Then, too, it was crafted from the lessons I learned the hard way, not only as a writer (both staffer and freelance) but as a sometime entrepreneur— those painfully gathered lessons about the prose (and the cons) of contracts, the trouble with presentations, the armor against thievery, the secrets of getting paid.

May you master them all the easy way.

And so, let’s begin. . . .





  1. Writing is a Process (not a leap of faith)

  2. Words, Words, Words

  3. Editing Your Prose

  4. Tone, Rhythm and Punctuation

  5. Grammar School: The Elementary Elements

  6. Giving Credit Where It’s Due (and a footnote about footnotes)



  1. Getting Down to Business: Strategic Writing

  2. The Business of Letters

  3. Resumés

  4. Pitches, Proposals and Presentations (and how to protect what you’ve pitched and proposed)

  5. Letters of Agreement and Other Kinds of Contracts

  6. Invoices

  7. Emails, Memos and Miscellanea

  8. Writer’s Block (Just too horrible for words)


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