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Keys to Great Writing
Revised and Expanded

by Stephen Wilbers

Keys to Great Writing: Mastering the Elements of Composition and Revision has been described as "a writing class in a book" that "breaks down general advice on what to do into practical steps on how to do it." A recently revised and expanded edition features an introduction by Faith Sullivan and new writing exercises.


Many books on writing provide commentary on what is wrong with today’s writing without offering specific instruction on how to make it right. Keys to Great Writing presents five elements of style (economy, precision, action, music, and personality), five elements of composition (purpose, point of view, organization, support, and coherence), an approach to drafting and revising, a brief glossary of grammatical terms, a checklist for writing with style, a checklist for proofreading, and a list of writing resources. Its numerous examples from literature, on-the-job writers, and students demonstrate why these techniques work and illustrate how you can use them in your own writing. 


Intended for writers of every type — from on-the-job writers to creative writers — and at every level of development — from beginning to advanced — this book will teach you how to develop a distinctive style that conveys your unique voice and personality.

Order copies from your local bookstore or amazon.com.

Book reviews


“Make every word count”

Exercises applying 14 techniques presented in Chapter 1: “Economy”

Empower your writing! Keys to Great Writing covers every aspect of the craft, showing you how to develop a writer's voice that is unique, precise and effective.

From grammar to revision strategies, you'll find the crucial information you need in short, easy-to-browse sections that enable you to hone your own signature writing approach. No more wading through dry style manuals. No more guesswork. Just clear, proven guidance, including:

Four Myths of Great Writing

The Elements of Style Checklist

The Elements of Composition Checklist

The Four-Step Writing Process

Glossary of Grammatical Terms

Proofreading Checklist

Four Common Errors in Word Choice

     (and How to Avoid Them)

Five Ways to Bring Music to Your Writing

Fourteen Techniques to Eliminate Wordiness

And much more!

Keys to Great Writing is like having your own desktop writing coach. Use it, learn from it, and give voice to the great writer within you.

About the author

Stephen Wilbers is a Senior Fellow in the University of Minnesota's Technological Leadership Institute, where he teaches both written and oral presentation skills. He has also taught in the Carlson School of Management’s M.B.A. Program, the Program in American Studies, and the Program in Creative and Professional Writing. In 1995 he won an Outstanding Faculty Award in Hamline University’s Graduate Public Administration Program.

Dr. Wilbers earned his B.A. at Vanderbilt University and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. He spent his junior year abroad in Aix-en-Provence and he was a Visiting Fulbright Fellow at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. At the University of Minnesota he directed student academic support services in the College of Liberal Arts and was instrumental in the College’s recognition of American Sign Language as “a complete and natural language.” In the late 1980s he served as Associate Director and Acting Director of the Program in Creative and Professional writing, where he worked with the creative writing faculty to establish a multi-section “meet the authors” creative writing course that is still offered today.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he is an avid reader, canoeist, cyclist, Nordic ski racer, opera lover, and two-time skydiver. He and his wife Debbie have two children and two grandchildren. They live in Minneapolis, where he served on the Loft Literary Center’s board of directors from 2003 to 2009 and as board chair from 2007 to 2009.

Table of Contents



Part One: Keys to Great Writing
Chapter 1: Economy
Chapter 2: Precision
Chapter 3: Action
Chapter 4: Music
Chapter 5: Personality

Part Two: Elements of Composition
Chapter 6: Purpose
Chapter 7: Point of View
Chapter 8: Organization
Chapter 9: Support
Chapter 10: Coherence

Part Three: Drafting and Revising
Chapter 11: The Writing Process

Appendix I: A Glossary of Grammatical Terms
Appendix II: Checklist: Keys to Great Writing
Appendix III: Checklist: Elements of Composition
Appendix IV: Checklist for Proofreading
Appendix V: Recommended Resources and Reading





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