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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Maybe that's why I have so many readers I can count them on one hand

Writing for my econ blog, I change
It doesn't work like that
to
It doesn't work that way.
Why? because I like the alliteration in work that way. That's alliteration, right?

Is it worth doing? Yeah. Writing is like making somebody eat something they don't want to eat. I try to make it like a live eel, slippery, so it goes down easy. It might make you shudder, but at least it goes down easy.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"So" is a complication

I'm writing for my econ blog:
I didn't capture the graph as an image, and the data has since changed, so the old link doesn't show what I saw last year.
Two commas, and three pieces of a sentence. Three is a lot to handle. Two is easier to see.

On top of that, there is a "so" in there. The data has changed, so the old link doesn't show the old data. I don't like "so".

Using "so" is like using "therefore": The data has changed; therefore the old link doesn't show the old data.

"Therefore" is a problem. It should make readers stop and evaluate the logic: Is is true? If the data changes, does the graph change? Yes, of course it does.

Even if the answer is "yes of course", I have distracted readers by encouraging them to stop and evaluate of my statement.

I'm not trying to fool anybody. I expect my readers to be sharp and to look for things I say that might be wrong. I always hope to be corrected if I'm wrong, because that improves what I have to say. But my task as a writer as a blogger is to convey information. I don't want to put things in my writing that interfere with conveying what I have to say.
I didn't capture the graph as an image, and the data has since changed. The old link doesn't show what I saw last year.
Two sentences now. Shorter sentences. That's good. And my conclusion (if you want to call it that) is presented matter-of-factly. I'm not challenging you to test my logic. I'm just presenting ideas. I think that makes it easier to read.

Not every "so" is a problem. But quite often when I'm proofreading, I'll take one out. Sometimes they're simply unnecessary. Sometimes they're worse than unnecessary.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The pause after "but"

I first noticed it while watching Star Trek: Next Generation. Every time Mr. Worf used the word "but" in a sentence, the pause came after the "but". These days, everybody says it that way.

The pause after "but" implies a comma after "but" in the writing. A pause before "but", where it should be, implies a comma before "but" in the writing.

THIS
but THAT
That's how I see it.

THIS but
THAT
That's how everybody else sees it.

The pause after the spoken "but" implies some kind of impending doom. Maybe that's why everybody says it that way now. With every action we take and every story we tell, impending doom awaits. Death of civilization, yes.

But guess what, guys. "Civilization dies by suicide".

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Michael Connelly on writing

From an interview:
... for me writing is all about finding momentum and keeping it. When your word count is 0, it’s much harder than when your word count is 60,000. I get up to write while it’s still dark, 5 or 5:30. I start by editing and rewriting everything I did the day before, and that gives some momentum for the day. I get to new territory when the sun is coming up. I take a break to take my daughter to school—actually she just started driving, so I take a break to have breakfast with her. Then I get back to it. If it’s early in a book, I’ll only write til lunch, because it can be hard for me to get that momentum going. If it’s late in a book and really flowing, I’ll just keep writing and writing, until I’m either too tired or have been called to dinner.

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

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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.