I've always liked Stephen Covey's phrase "sharpening the saw". I have realized, through weblogging for the past few weeks, that my written communication "saw" has become very dull indeed. The growth of powerpoint presentations, email, and instant messaging as the primary means of written business communication, at least in my world, has resulted in real erosion of my writing skills. Just as in any area of practice - if you don't use it, you lose it.
So I went and acquired a new copy of Strunk and White. You know, The Elements of Style. This is at least my fourth or fifth copy over the years. Elements is an essential tool in the writer's toolbox. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, there is now a fourth edition of this classic with revisions and a new chapter by Roger Angell. Even with some growth over the years as new editions have been written, it's only 100 pages. Its brevity is a lesson in itself.
At the other extreme, at least in terms of length, is the 850 page Garner's Modern American Usage. Another very good writer's reference. I'm working my way up to acquiring the recently updated 15th (!) edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. I was going to buy it when I bought my copy of Garner's, but I couldn't carry another 950 pages. Sharpening the saw is one thing - carrying a steel billet home so I can make a new one is another thing entirely.