News To Live By (2016)
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (01/17)
As an English professor, I have read many books and articles on writing, but have found very few I could recommend to my students. Usually, I’m limited to books every writer knows like “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” With “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?” by Danny Rubin, I finally have an additional book to recommend to all of my previous and future students.
As much as I enjoyed the whole book (in these 200 pages, Danny Rubin includes many templates for not only writing the titular emails, but also how to network, write handwritten notes, resumes, and more which are well worth the read and that I know I’ll be using again and again), these sections aren’t the true strength of this book. No, the true power of Rubin’s book can be found in the first 25 pages.
What can be this good that it would overshadow the professional templates and other advice? It’s a chapter on what Rubin calls “How to Write Everything Better” and he’s right. He focuses on the two most important criteria of professional writing: how to be brief and how to be interesting.
Usually, when it comes to writing, there are two schools I’ve found: either the writing will be overflowing with flowery language that doesn’t really add anything of value, or the writing will be trimmed to the barebones until it is a lifeless husk that offers no insight. Neither is a good alternative. What Rubin offers is a compromise between these two schools:
1. First, cut out all superfluous information
2. Second, add in wrinkles to make the writing informative and sticky
This is truly the foundation of the book. Whatever you write should be pared down to the barebones, but then built back up until it is sticky. For example, which of these statements sticks out to you more (taken from Rubin’s book):
“After college, I taught English at a school in China.”
“After college, I taught English speaking skills for one year to a group of 25 school-age boys at a school in rural China, more than 1,000 miles from the nearest major city.”
Which one of these provides a more thorough picture for you? Which one will stick with you even after you stop reading this review?
By the time you finish “Wait, How Do I Write This Email?” by Danny Rubin, your first question when reviewing your writing will be, “Do I need this?”
In the case of this book, that answer is, “Yes, I do.”