A former student of mine (who is now my friend) asked me today to recommend a book on writing. My response, somewhat blunt: “You should read a lot of journals in your field.”
I am writing this article as both a student of writing and a teacher of the craft. As a student of writing, I have to say that I had never been taught writing using a writing textbook. Seriously. So, when I heard of books on writing such as the famous Longman Academic Writing Series, I was somewhat surprised that such book existed! (By the way, it’s a good series; I used the 3rd book in the series in my intermediate writing class, and I liked it a lot. You might consider getting a copy of it. But of course, you need someone to help you navigate through the book.)
So, how did I learn how to write?
I remember my first writing class… All we did in class was to talk about reading. Then, the teacher assigned us essays. We were required to turn in our first draft, our second draft, and our final draft. We wrote about 15 pages throughout the semester. We got comments, we read them, we applied them to our subsequent drafts. We never used a writing textbook. Instead, we read “authentic” articles such as excerpts from novels, essays, articles, etc. In other writing classes, we did the same. We read and then we wrote. We learned from reading; we learned from teacher’s comments. We learned from mistakes.
Hence, it’s difficult for me to recommend books on writing (because I hardly use one). But I can tell you that reading is the best way to develop your writing skills. If you can afford, take writing classes (from qualified teachers), so you get feedback on your writing.
Reading in your field is also beneficial because through reading, you will learn the conventions: how to construct arguments in your field, how to present your ideas, which tense(s) to use (each field has its own preference), etc. You’ll also acquire vocabulary used in your specific field. So, let’s read.
**Others may have different advice. They may recommend you to get specific books. But above is my own advice based on my own experience. :)