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My three best books on writing

It was only when I became an editor that I became a better writer. It could be that by spotting the typos and grammatical errors in other people’s works that I learned how to best tighten my own copy. Editing other people’s articles made me look at my own writing from a different perspective, a better one. It’s like when you slip in the other person’s shoes and see things from where they stand that you start taking a closer look at things from where you stand.

Although experience is the best teacher and there’s no better way to become a good writer than to keep writing, reading books on writing is another surefire way of improving this craft.

Here are some of the books that I consider my go-to’s when it comes to writing:

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1.The Bedford Handbook for Writers (4th Edition, Diana Hacker)
This was a random pick at a local bookstore in Dumaguete City. I’m sure there’s a more updated edition of this book by now. The author, Diana Hacker, was teaching composition classes at Prince George’s Community College when she wrote this book. It has become my bail-out book especially when editing. Plus I love the hand-edited sentences and quick reference charts on common writing problems like subject-verb agreements and comma splices.

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2. Seven Rules for Writers, Joseph V. Landy, S.J.
It’s lightweight, direct to the point, with emphasis on “crystal-clear prose pulsing with life!” The point of this book is help writers acquire a skill not just correct but effective English. I read his seven rules time and time again, my favourite of which is to “make every word count.” The author, Fr. Landy, earned his degrees in English from Fordham University in New York, and Oxford University in England. He also taught English courses at the Ateneo de Manila University Philippines for five years.

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3. Creative Non Fiction (Reader and Manual) by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
When it comes to feature writing or creative non-fiction writing, there’s no other book for me than these two. I love this set, especially the manual. I’ve based my Feature Writing presentations for workshops on Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s manual, which explains in detail the strategies for writing creative non fiction. It’s full-bodied and rich with information on how to show, not tell. This book explains the rules on writing and how to break them to come up with compelling pieces that breathe, pulse, throb.

Every student of writing, whatever the genre, should read this book. The Reader is especially helpful. There’s nothing like reading the works of Filipino literary masters such as Luis Katigbak, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Clinton Palanca, Jessica Zafra, and of course, Nick Joaquin, to get those creative juices pumping.

I’m sharing these books here with the hope that if you’re a writer, and you happen to pass by a bookstore, watch out for these gems. Most of these I bought from second-hand bookshops (except for Pantejo’s). If you happen to see them on the shelves, grab them right away. You won’t regret it.

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