Jan 3, 2013

I thought that book was going to be bad, actually it is great

I am not buying new books for some time, until I read some books people have given me as gifts, so I am reading the "yellow book," the "book of adventures," the "book on excellence," the "book on that spiritual city," and the "book on 'stylish writing'". 

This post is abut the last one, Stylish Academic Writing (HUP, 2012). The author, Helen Sword, gives great advice and examples on how to improve academic writing. It was a gift from the dean of my department. 
Here are some things I've liked very much so far (p. 109-10):
  • Give examples: for every sentence that you write about an abstract concept or principle, follow up with the words "For example . . ." . . .
  • . . . Stylish writers [her way to say good academic writers] employ similes, metaphors, analogies, and other figurative language to capture their reader's attention, and their understanding, appeal to their physical senses, and generate new ideas. If figurative language doesn't come naturally to you, try the following steps:
    • . . . Choose a bland, abstract sentence from your book, thesis, or article. (Example: "Speech errors occur frequently in human conversation, but the many different varieties of errors are not yet been adequately analized and categorized by scholars.")  
    •  Identify the subjet of the sentence and come up with some concrete similes. ("Speech errors are like: sprouting weeds, lost children, swarming insects.")  
    • Choose one of those similes and expand it into an analogy. ("If speech errors are like warming insects, then the people who study them are like entomologists, and the act of studing them is like catching and classfying insects.")   
    • Get playful with the analogy: push its limits, explore its shadow side. ("If speech errors are like swarming insects, studying them is like intentionally walking into a cloud of mosquitoes. If linguists are like entomologists, classifying speech errors is like dipping butterflies in formaldehyde and pinning them to a board").  
I am fascinated with this book. She includes profiles of great writers like Oliver Sacks and Stephen Pinker, among many others. You might be interested in her "WritersDiet" test. Her website is here. See more advice for academic writers here.

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