Writing guides and handbooks fall into roughly two categories: Some are long, comprehensive, and, except for the extremely punctilious writer, unfathomable; a few are direct, useful, and ideal for serious writers. In the latter category falls Brandon Royal’s brilliant The Little Red Writing Book.
The articulate exposition of his twenty principles of writing fit neatly into 128 short, accessible pages, pages undoubtedly well-thumbed by thousands of grateful writers for years. Built carefully and simply around the categories of structure, style, readability and grammar, Mr. Royal’s little book will satisfy both the sit-down-and-read-all-about-it reader and the frustrated-fly-by-and-check-something-quickly writer.
I recommend this wonder to all my writing students. Perhaps one day writing committees will wisely follow suit and make this a primary text for all writing courses at their schools.
Ray Turner, B.A., MA (Communications)
Writing Instructor and Former Educational Administrator
Corpus Christi TX, USA
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If there were ever a time when this reviewer recalled with gratitude the diligence and thoroughness of her writing teachers, it was while reviewing this book. The mechanics of expository writing, which many of us take for granted, are presented in an organized, attractive package that will serve the basic writing needs of students and professionals alike. Royal provides not only numerous examples of the principles of written English but exercises as well, with answers for those wishing to master the basics. He includes tips on gender-neutral composition and on structuring written documents. Borders and flourishes enliven the text and make the book as charming as its title. This handy reference, similar to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, could only have been improved by the inclusion of a glossary and a general index. Recommended for high school, college, and writing collections.”
Library Journal of America
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In this smart, pleasingly designed handbook, test-prep expert Royal explores 20 “immutable principles of writing” and 30 basic rules of grammar and syntax with an eye to helping students craft better essays and business professionals compose more persuasive reports. Beginning with rules of structure (in expository writing, put the thesis first; break the subject down into two to four parts; finish discussing one topic before moving on to another), Royal then moves into stylistic advice – a most welcome section for anyone who’s ever slogged through reports full of phrases like “implementation of optimized functionality.” Why use “compensate” when “pay” will do–or “cognizant” when “aware” is enough? Royal also counsels readers to vary sentence structure, avoid redundancy and use active phrasing. New advice? Hardly. But it’s presented confidently and clearly, and the book’s tone feels appropriate for its audience of ambitious students and professionals – those who have plenty of brains, but need a little brush-up with the pen. The grammar workshop at the end is similarly firm and useful.
Publishers Weekly’s On-Line Review
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Covering “20 Powerful Principles of Structure, Style, & Readability” this book will help anyone wanting to refresh and strengthen their writing skills. Authors of blogs, articles and letters will benefit from this refresher. Everyday expository writing is the focus of this book, yet the principles apply to all types of writing.
Brandon Royal writes in a very clear manner, and the book is an easy read. With the use of examples, humorous illustrations and insightful quotes, what could be a very dry learning experience is kept light and enjoyable.
Contributing Writer, About.com
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Laid out in a style evocative of an early 19th century American primer (schoolbook), Hong Kong-based writer Brandon Royal’s The Little Red Writing Book is, well, just that: a primer on writing. It is, however, a very practical sort of primer for adults based around “20 principles of structure, style & readability” which focus on everyday writing: letters, reports, journalism, that sort of thing.
Like most primers, the points it makes are pretty obvious (e.g. “Keep it Simple: Use simple words to express your ideas” and “Support What You Say”) – obvious, that is, once one has read them. Other points may be less self-evident to those who haven’t explicitly studied “expository writing”, such as leading with one’s conclusion or main point (as, you will no doubt note, I conscientiously did in this review).
Royal makes extensive and illustrative use of “before” and “after” examples, from down-to-earth and real-life scenarios. In addition to the 20 principles, the book also includes a grammar review, appendices on such mysterious matters as commas and the differences between British and American spelling and even a list of Latin abbreviations, etc. – and like any good primer, includes exercises (blackboard not included, unfortunately).
While The Little Red Writing Book doesn’t quite have the je ne sais pas quoi of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, it is a very practical little volume which – as any business’s incoming mail will attest – many people would benefit from.
And that’s a wolf on the cover: “Little Red Riding Hood” – get it? Cute, no?
Editor, The Asian Review of Books