How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them

Ben Yagoda's How to Not Write Bad illustrates how we can all write better, more clearly, and for a wider readership.

He offers advice on what he calls "not-writing-badly," which consists of the ability, first, to craft sentences that are correct in terms of spelling, diction (word choice), punctuation, and grammar, and that also display clarity, precision, and grace. Then he focuses on crafting whole paragraphs—with attention to cadence, consistency of tone, sentence transitions, and paragraph length.

In a fun, comprehensive guide, Yagoda lays out the simple steps we can all take to make our writing more effective, more interesting—and just plain better.

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By Stefanie (Minneapolis, MN) · ★★★★★ · March 02, 2013
I enjoy Ben Yagoda's columns in the New York Times now and then. He's one of the few people who can write an essay about commas and make me laugh. When I was offered a review copy of his newest book, I couldn't say no. I own and have read plenty of books that promise to tell me how to write well.... ...more
By David (Olathe, KS) · ★★★★☆ · April 25, 2013
Journalism professor Ben Yagoda attempts here what so many others have already tried: to present a short, enjoyable, and informative book on grammar and basic writing. The idea is not necessarily to make readers fantastic or even good writers but to make them not-bad, to allow them to rise above... ...more
By Jessica (Saint Paul, MN) · ★★★★★ · May 08, 2013
It takes a certain type of geek to read this sort of book cover-to-cover. I am that sort of geek. Yagoda has a fresh approach to classic grammar and syntax rules and if the first part of this sentence bored you, then I don't recommend this book. If you are a fan of Zinsser and Strunk/White but wa... ...more
By Dan (Sydney, Australia) · ★★★★★ · March 16, 2015
This highly useful how-to-write manual is mostly meant for students of journalism and academia, or so I believe. It's not about storytelling, it's not about publishing. But it will open your eyes to the mistakes and bad habits you sometimes perform in your writing, whether you're a blogger or a m... ...more
By Nancy (Columbus, OH) · ★★★★☆ · September 15, 2014
This book is saving me. I just started teaching a writing class for college students. Yes: writing well is the big life-long goal (for those who study writing). Keeping prose free of the "noise" of language misuse is the immediate need of most of my students. This book highlights the most common... ...more
By Bob (The United States) · ★★☆☆☆ · March 17, 2015
This how-not-to-write guide has a pretty simple format: a humorous though uninformative title for a particular flaw, a slightly-more-informative-on-average description that should be deprived of its humor and made the title, an overly-affected example written by the authors, and finally an explan... ...more
By W. (Littleton, CO) · ★★★★★ · January 01, 2014
As a journalism professor at the University of Delaware, Ben Yagoda has years of experience of reading student assignments. That experience is sifted and poured into “How Not To Write Bad.” This entertaining look at language is informative and everyone who reads it will profit from this book.

As h... ...more
By Jill (Redwood City, CA) · ★★★☆☆ · August 17, 2013
Since I was an English major on my first trip through college, I consider myself a fairly accomplished writer. I see so many writing errors in blogs, articles, and reviews on-line, and I was looking forward to determining whether Yagoda's slim volume could be a good resource. It is definitely ful... ...more
By Paul (Brooklyn, NY) · ★★☆☆☆ · November 04, 2013
After having read and loved another of his books ("When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It”), I picked up this one with high hopes. Unfortunately, though, this fell far short of those expectations. Whereas the other book was entertaining, humorous, and organized, this one was repetitive, dry, and di... ...more