Category Archives: writing

Writing: it’s all about the reader

I said in the last post that I wanted to impart some tips on writing which have been very useful to me. These are all taken from a great article, The Science of Scientific Writing, by George Gopen and Judy Swan.

Gopen & Swan’s big theme is ‘reader expectations.’ Readers, it turns out, don’t just suck up all the words in a text indiscriminately, scramble them all in a mental blender, and absorb the resulting purée as pure information. Instead they look for a running story in any stretch of prose. And, semi-consciously, they – we – look for clues to that story in the structural choices made by the writer. I’ll explain what this really means below. Continue reading

Good writing and bad writing advice

I read Monserratt’s first thesis chapter this week. It got me thinking about the subject of writing well, and the related sub-subject of giving advice on writing well.

The latter makes up a fairly vast genre. Good writing style doesn’t come easily. More to the point, writing makes people anxious. The demand for advice runs high, and the supply is there to match: Amazon gives about 12,000 results under the ‘Writing Skills’ category.

A lot of this advice is undoubtedly good. But there’s an insidious and perversely resilient brand of writing advice which is bad, bad, bad. I’m talking about what is politely called prescriptivism. It’s less politely known as ‘pedantry’ or ‘grammar Nazism.’ Continue reading