There aren’t many shortcuts you can take for improving the stories that appear in your yearbook, but there is one: Read the best books on writing to find personalized writing tips for students.
We know you know that the best yearbook stories are creative, emotional and compelling—and they’re made more so when they’re told with clarity and function.
The trick to that second part isn’t found in a writer’s passion or zeal, though, and that’s what makes it so tough to coach developing writers. The trick is found in helping them knowing when and how to use writing tools that help them achieve their goals.
It takes a lot of writing, and a lot of reading good writing, to master those tools. Get to the middle of the yearbook season, though, and “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
So, here’s a shortcut—and a shortlist of the best books on writing—to finding writing tips for students:
- “The Elements of Style”
- “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”
- “Writing Tools”
- “On Writing Well”
- “The Associated Press Stylebook”
The five books we’re highlight are the best books on writing, period. They’re straight-up classics, used by aspiring writers and professional wordsmiths. And the best part? They each deliver powerful lessons in a unique way.
From technical grammar to inspiring storytelling, these writing tips for students will teach—or maybe just remind—you of all the skills you and your team need to make sure your writing game is on point.
The 5 Best Books Covering Writing Tips for Students
The Elements of Style
At a short 105 pages, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” is a writing powerhouse wrapped in a small package.
Used by students and professional writers alike, it’s divided into three sections and contains everything you need to establish solid writing skills: rules of usage, principles of composition, and advice on style. Since this book is a requirement in many college classes, familiarizing your yearbook students with its lessons will give them an advantage beyond high school.
How to use it: Read it cover-to-cover, and encourage your yearbook students to do the same. Strunk and White has a way of getting their writing tips to sink in. And that’s where the value is.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves
Proper punctuation might seem tedious, but “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” proves it can be as entertaining as it is practical.
Author Lynne Truss uses a combination of serious punctuation education and quirky writing to make commas and hyphens seem fun. It’s an ideal book to enjoy this summer and share with students once school starts.
How to use it: Teach the intricacies of proper punctuation by highlighting amusing excerpts to read to your yearbook students. If you have students that seem inclined for a career with words, or are struggling with proper punctuation, recommend they read this one in its entirety. As Truss says, “Sticklers, unite!”
“Writing Tools” is a bit like “Elements of Style.” It’s an all-encompassing book, aimed at improving all aspects of writing, but it does so in a different manner. Author Roy Peter Clark doesn’t provide rules. He provides tools. 55 of them, in fact. As Clark says, “Writing is a craft you can learn. You need tools, not rules.”
Clark includes examples of each tool in action, and each chapter ends with a “Workshop”— exercises designed to help the reader explore the topic in their own work.
How to use it: Each of the 55 tools is relatively short, making this a great read for summer. Read a chapter or two each day, and you’ll head into the school year feeling ready to pass along your refreshed knowledge. When your yearbook committee starts up again, use Clark’s “Workshop” activities to create quick, helpful writing lessons with your students.
On Writing Well
William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” has sold more than one million copies, and for good reason. It’s full of useful information geared toward journalists—exactly the stuff your students need to learn as they do reporting for their yearbook.
His timeless, wise and supportive advice (chock full of illustrative examples) will help you and your students brush up on the writing skills needed to create a standout yearbook. Zinsser’s tone is that of a trusted friend, making this book feel less like a textbook and more like words of wisdom.
The book is divided into four main sections with subsections in each, making it easy to refresh your knowledge on particular writing tips for students, and then skip to what interests you next.
How to use it: The “Forms” section will be particularly helpful to you as a yearbook advisor—Zinsser covers writing about people, places, sports and more. Try assigning students the section that relates to the work they will be doing.
The Associated Press Stylebook
When it comes to reporting and journalism, the Associated Press has literally written the book on style.
The AP Stylebook is the universal guide to best practices in writing and journalism. It is used in newsrooms, schools, business communications and beyond, so it is an extremely beneficial resource for students with a future in journalism or communications.
Since it is a reference book, we’d say you’re best bet isn’t sitting down and reading it cover-to-cover. That’d be tortuous to even the most persnickety writer. But it is fantastic for getting definitive answers on the rules and guidelines everyone needs to know to be a successful writer.
How to use it: We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: A yearbook needs consistency. When questions come up, point students to the AP Stylebook, or read them an entry. They’ll soon realize that it holds the answers to many of their most obscure questions (Like: When you’re abbreviating California, is it CA or Calif. Or Ca. ?).
Good writing takes practice, but good writing also takes applying what you learn. By knowing where to go to pull together writing tips for students, you’ll be one step ahead in your effort to improve your team’s yearbook stories.
There is, then, a lot to be gained by putting the best books on writing on your summer reading list. Remember Roy Peter Clark’s advice: “Writing is a craft you can learn.” And by learning the craft, you can also become a better writing coach to your students.