Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Roundup on Writing

From a cafe in Grunerløkka, Oslo
William Zinsser, "Looking for a Model," American Scholar blog, ND

Writing is learned by imitation; we all need models. “I’d like to write like that,” we think at various moments in our journey, mentioning an author whose style we want to emulate. But our best models may be men and women writing in fields different from our own. When I wrote On Writing Well, in 1974, I took as my model a book that had nothing to do with writing or the English language.>>>

PageView Editor, "My Daily Read: [an interview with] Helen Sword," Chronicle, May 2, 2012

Q: What is your greatest criticism of much academic writing?

A. In contrast to Sinclair’s lucid and engaging paper, many academic articles are quite frankly unreadable, not only by disciplinary outsiders but by close colleagues.  Often the problem is simply poor craftsmanship:  perhaps the author has tried to cram three or four major ideas into a single sentence, leaving the reader to do the hard work of disentangling all those nested subordinate clauses.  Another common issue is an excessive allegiance to the discourse of abstraction: it’s not uncommon to find nine, ten, or more spongy abstract nouns (examples: allegiance, discourse, abstraction) cohabiting in a single sentence. The human attention span has trouble coping with that much vagueness.  Stylish academic writers anchor abstract ideas in the physical world, using stories, case studies, metaphors, illustrations, concrete nouns, and vivid verbs, and lots and lots of examples.

Isabel Kaplan, "Classic Literature Isn't Dead: No Ifs, Ands, or Buts," Huff Post Books, June 5, 2012

THIS JUST IN: Contemporary writers are no longer influenced by classic literature -- or so claim a team of mathematicians from Dartmouth and Wisconsin in a recently published paper entitled, "Quantitative patterns of stylistic influence in the evolution of literature.">>>

Gail Collins, "How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us," New York Review of Books, June 21, 2012

No matter where you live, if your children go to public schools, the textbooks they use were very possibly written under Texas influence. If they graduated with a reflexive suspicion of the concept of separation of church and state and an unexpected interest in the contributions of the National Rifle Association to American history, you know who to blame.>>>

Maria Popova, "Ray Bradbury on Facing Rejection ... and Being Inspired by Snoopy," Atlantic Monthly, May 21, 2012

Famous advice on writing abounds—Kurt Vonnegut's 8 tips on how to make a great story, David Ogilvy's 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller's 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac's 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck's six pointers, and various invaluable insight from other great writers. In Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life, Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz, son of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, bring a delightfully refreshing lens to the writing advice genre by asking 30 famous authors and entertainers to each respond to a favorite Snoopy comic strip with a 500-word essay on the triumphs and tribulations of the writing life.>>>

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