Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ten Tips for Writing Less Badly

In 2010, political scientist Frank Munger wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education offering ten tips on writing less badly. It’s aimed at academic writers. Here are the headlines:

  1. Writing is an exercise.You get better and faster with practice.
  2. Set goals based on output, not input."I will work for three hours" is a delusion; "I will type three double-spaced pages" is a goal.
  3. Find a voice; don't just "get published."Paradoxically, if all you are trying to do is "get published," you may not publish very much. It's easier to write when you're interested in what you're writing about.
  4. Give yourself time.
  5. Everyone's unwritten work is brilliant. When you are actually writing, and working as hard as you should be if you want to succeed, you will feel inadequate, stupid, and tired. If you don't feel like that, then you aren't working hard enough.
  6. Pick a puzzle.Portray, or even conceive, of your work as an answer to a puzzle.
  7. Write, then squeeze the other things in.Put your writing ahead of your other work.
  8. Not all of your thoughts are profound. So start small. It is hard to refine your questions, define your terms precisely, or know just how your argument will work until you have actually written it all down.
  9. Your most profound thoughts are often wrong.Or, at least, they are not completely correct. Precision in asking your question, or posing your puzzle, will not come easily if the question is hard.
  10. Edit your work, over and over.Have other people look at it.

You can read the full explanations here.


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