Making them up as I go (2)

1. Tell the truth.
2. Entice, or fail.
3. To emphasize, summarize.
4. If it ain't short, it don't work.
5. Be clear.

And so I don't forget:
Don't explain. Just tell a story.
Don't argue. Just say things that make sense.
Expect people to be bored by the writing, and shorten it.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

One cardinal rule

Isaac Asimov:
I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing — to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics — Well, they can do whatever they wish.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Paul Romer

From Writing:
There are many reasons why we must write clearly. The one that is relevant here is that clear writing is a commitment to integrity...

The problem with vague writing is that it lets an author convey a false impression yet retain plausible deniability when someone tries to verify the claim...

My favorite book on editing recommends looking at the “the first seven or eight words in a sentence. If you do not see a character as a subject and a verb as a specific action, you have a candidate for a revision.”


On Economics and Management
Notes for Bank insiders by Paul Romer


See also A spat over language erupts at the World Bank

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hints on how to write papers and blue books

I don't write blue books, not for a while. The title here is taken from J.P.Sommerville. The hints and tips may be found here. I like his first three general points:
  1. Answer the question
  2. Organize your answer
  3. Be precise

It seems I tend to drift a bit, especially at the opening. I need to think more about cutting out the drifty parts of what I've written, leaving only the parts I want people to focus on. In other words: Answer the question.

I'll try to remember.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Illiterate versus Just Plain Stupid

From W3Schools: "Tip: The <div> element is very often used together with CSS, to layout a web page."

No. Unacceptable. It has to be this way: "Tip: The <div> element is very often used together with CSS, to lay out a web page."

"Lay out" has to be two words. Why? IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE DOING IT. Then you have to be able to say: "I am laying out the web page." Two words.

It would be obviously wrong to say "I am layouting the web page." It would be stupid. I know the Age of Reason is behind us and all, but that doesn't mean this has to be the Age of Stupidity. Don't go there.

It would be okay to say "I am working on the layout" because the layout is a thing. But you would never say "I am workoning the layout," right?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"This is reality, whether you like it or not."

The title is from Willa Cather, at Orange Crate Art. It reminds me...

I worked for a time with a bunch of foreigners, Czechs from Czechoslovakia, from before the days of the Czech Republic. There were minor problems with the language.

The boss and his number one man didn't get along at all. Number one never liked anything the boss thought we should do. One time the boss said we should do so-and-so. Number one responded, saying "I don't like that..."

The boss replied, saying we would do it anyway, "whether you don't like it or not."

It was just perfect.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Maybe a comma after "literally" would help

Some years back, in The Atlantic:
But the federal government stuck to its guns, literally suppressing an armed anti-tax uprising in western Pennsylvania in 1794, known as the Whiskey Rebellion.
That sentence would have been so much better if the word "literally" applied to the imagery of sticking to guns, rather than to the fact of suppressing a rebellion.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

WHEN and THEN it is

some phrases on phrasing

so i am talking about inflation in the 1970s
and the policy response to inflation
and how policy sometimes creates a recession

and i get to the point where i say
if policy creates a recession
then the resulting unemployment is due to policy

but i go back and change
"if policy creates a recession" to
"when policy creates a recession"
because the words are stronger

by logic i should say
"if this, then that"
but now i have when and then

we did get recessions in the 70s
so 'when' is not wrong, but
IF this THEN that is BASIC

it bothers me a little
evidently, for i am writing
but i'm sticking with when and then