How not to Write; the essential misrules of grammar
by William Safire

ISBN: 978-0393327236 Published: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint July 17, 2005
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

Nothing is so sure to be a source of irritation to the board as a poorly written paper. Management allegedly speed many hours (some management teams report up to 35% of their time is spent reporting to the board) yet somehow their efforts are unappreciated. This is a huge issue. Not just because of the waste of time but because a poorly written paper will likely generate a poorly formed decision.

This book is about the rules of good writing. It will help managers and consultants to write clearly and well. It sets out the essential misrules of grammar and illustrates how they work, or don’t.

We have heard it said that to break rules with impunity you must know and understand them. William must be so intimately acquainted with grammar that, rather than merely avoiding penalty, he is rewarded. This book is so well written it is delicious!

It also breaks every one of the rules and does so with a bravado more common in bullrings than boardrooms (or publishing houses). If you want a straightforward guide to common rules of grammar just read the content list and refrain from turning a single page beyond that. If you are already confident in your writing ability then read on. You will find each rule carefully described and then cheerfully broken, smashed or pulverised.

This is not a book about board papers. There are no templates, guides or primers. If that is what you need then buy Mary Morel’s excellent Write to Govern. If you just want to learn to write anything better this will undoubtedly help. It is an excellent example of great writing. Short, succinct and powerful.

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* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of   "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors",   Dilemmas, Dilemmas II: More Practical Case Studies for Company Directors (Volume 2),   "The Director's Dilemma",   "Presenting to Boards",   "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.