Born in Michigan, Sherwin Cody was orphaned at an early age and raised by relatives in New England. He attended the Canterbury district school in New Hampshire, Waltham High School in Massachusetts, and in 1885 to Amherst College, where he studied with John Franklin Genung and worked as a secretary to Amherst President Julius Hawley Seelye.
After graduating from Amherst, Cody worked at various jobs trying to establish himself as a writer. After the failure of a Horatio Alger-style novel called In the Heart of the Hills, he moved to Chicago in 1896.Cody worked at the Chicago Tribune as correspondence education was being initiated at the University of Chicago, and he was assigned to writing a home study course English for the Tribune. In 1903 Cody produced a version of his course in pocket-sized book form as The Art of Writing and Speaking the English Language which he advertised in the business magazine The System and elsewhere.
Historians of business communication list Cody among those establishing modern business communication based on the notions of clarity, correctness, courtesy, and colloquial style.
Marketing his own books and giving personalized correspondence courses in business writing connected Cody with Chicago business leaders and the school reform movement in Chicago and he developed a series of ability tests which became the basis of the Sherwin Cody 100% Self-correcting Course in English Language.
Working with the Ruthrauff and Ryan Advertising Agency and copywriter Maxwell Sackheim, Cody patented his course, franchised it to two Rochester New York businessmen, Walter Paterson and Charles Lennon, and worked with Sackheim to develop an ad campaign that ran for more than 40 years...