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Daily book bite: From “Stylish Academic Writing”

March 13th, 2013

Over the next few weeks I’ll post bites from various scholarly writing books that I admire. This one is from Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword, published by Harvard University Press in 2012.

Quote from cover material:

Sword’s analysis of more than a thousand peer-reviewed articles across a wide range of fields documents a startling gap between how academics typically describe good writing and the turgid prose they regularly produce.

Quote from page 9, on writing guides:

In a nutshell, I found that the writing guides offer virtually unanimous advice on some points of style (such as the need for clarity and concision) but conflicting recommendations on other (such as pronoun usage and structure)… [hence] stylish academic writing is a complex and often contradictory business.

And now my thoughts: “No kidding!” Seriously, I have found writing advice to be hugely contradictory, and many of the most revered books contain advice that is questionable or even demonstrably wrong. The handful that I do recommend (please see the link at the right) are wonderful, and I’m always interested in hearing from faculty about what has worked for you.


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