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Economical Writing Paperback – May 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1577660637 ISBN-10: 1577660633 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Pr Inc; 2 edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577660633
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577660637
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Deirdre McCloskey's Economical Writing, originally aimed to help economists write better, is in this second edition clearly a book that should be read by scholars in every field. Her thirty-one rules, offered with wit and delightful brevity, include the essential warning that though rules can help, bad rules hurt. McCloskey's are all of the helpful kind." -- Wayne Booth, University of Chicago

"If you want to be read [and who doesn't] and be remembered [better yet], Economical Writing is for you. This entertaining volume will teach you how to write meaningful and joyful economics. A dose of McCloskey banishes the dismal from the 'dismal science.' McCloskey is the Strunk and White of economics, and Economic Writing should be required reading for all economists." -- Claudia Goldin, Harvard University

"McCloskey tells economists to say what they have to say clearly and economically, and then shows them how. Students can learn to write so that the professor will know what they mean and, more important, professors can learn to write so that the rest of the world will know what they mean." -- Howard S. Becker, University of Washington

"Professor McCloskey has written the best short guide to academic prose in the language. Is this language English and not the Academic Official Style? Does McCloskey write with a sense that is also a sense of humor? All true. Buy and believe." -- Richard Lanham, University of California, Los Angeles

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Customer Reviews

In fact, any non-fiction writer will benefit from reading this book.
Amazon Customer
The book provides an excellent guide to write good economic prose in a clear, joyful fashion.
Sergio Martinez
Highly recommended by my adviser, a former AE at an A level academic journal.
A. Nikolov

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By D. B. Levenstam on November 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I became acquainted with Economical Writing's predecessor when McCloskey first served as my advisor at the University of Iowa. I've found Economical Writing a pleasure to read--and reread. I've used Economical Writing and its predecessor to good effect during the ensuing 10 years, teaching students of history and rhetoric to write more clearly and persuasively. McCloskey, considered by some to write more clearly than any other economist, shares a good number of basic and advanced techniques for writing better. She uses brevity, humor and examples to persuade the student that writing clearly matters and that anyone, no matter how skilled (or unskilled), can write more clearly.
When I use Economical Writing in a class I don't teach from it; rather, I refer students to small portions of the book which further (and perhaps more effectively) illustrate points I make in comments I write on student papers. In the past I've found the book invaluable for helping students write more clearly and persuasively. I plan to use Economical Writing once again next semester in rhetoric and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write better--or to help teach others to write better.
McCloskey divides her economical little book of 98 page into 33 chapters, including suggestions on everything from which rules of your grammar-school teacher you should break (many), to how to make your writing cohere (repetition), to why even the cynical student (or professor) should write better ("good writing pays well and bad writing pays badly"). In providing suggestions for improvement, McCloskey clearly demonstrates the same depth and breadth of knowledge that she brings to all of her academic ventures. McCloskey may well have written the best brief book on how to write well. By limiting Economical Writing to 98 pages and a such a low price, she certainly has written the most economical superb book on writing well.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By on March 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Professor McCloskey presents 31 rules for rhetoric (invention, arrangement, and especially style) that cross outmoded traditional teachings. Writing with verve, her practical rules combined with concrete examples of wordcraft motivate and encourage. I have a shelf of writer's guides and style manuals, but it took this small classic to get me over a three-year long writer's block. It would be difficult to praise this book too highly. It has been a classic from its first incarnation in April 1985.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful little book that every college undergraduate--not just Econ majors--should read carefully. It's a clear, lively, and witty guide to good expository writing. I assigned a few chapters from it to first-year college students taking a seminar on writing, and they found it excellent--much better than the main writing textbook used in the class.
McCloskey covers most of the topics that college writing textbooks address, but hers is not a reference textbook. It's an actual book that you read and enjoy from cover to cover. Her advice is priceless, and so many students could become much stronger writers by following it closely.
I first read this book (in its first edition) as a graduate student. I disliked much of it and was quite mad at the author. When she described what "bad writers" do, she was describing everything that I was in the habit of doing! Over time I've become a better writer and I've had to recognize that her advice was sound and my writing poor.
If you're a student, please read this book--you'll be glad that you did. If you're a professor, please require your students to read it--you'll be doing them a big favor. And you'll see the results in their papers, which won't be quite as painful to grade...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Evans VINE VOICE on July 16, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McCloskey delivers a thoughtful, fun, and very slim volume, focused on economics writing but also applicable to most non-fiction writing.

The chapters in this book address everything from the fundamental ("Write in Complete Sentences") to the nuanced ("Make Your Writing Cohere," with clear tips on how to do so). I hadn't encountered many of the ideas previously, such as putting the importance material at the end of the sentence and only elaborate one of the three parts of a sentence (i.e. the subject, the verb, or the object).

Two strengths of the book are that it's funny (my friends couldn't believe I was laughing aloud at a style manual) and that it gives a host of references to other books on writing. On McClosky's recommendation, one of my next books will be Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Her main list of writing books is on pages 8 and 9, but she peppers recommendations throughout. She also gives a list of good economics writers (p. 15).

I didn't agree with everything in the book because, after all, "good style is...a matter of taste" (p. 88). If you want axioms, go to Strunk and White's Elements of Style (which is also wittier than you might expect). But McCloskey takes us beyond axioms to think hard about style and the process is well worth our while. ("Process" is one of her no-no words (p. 73), but I'll leave it, just this once.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Dahlstrom on April 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author follows her own advice in writing an economical (short) book. It is, as she says, speed directed at the point, and the point is to give writers of economics tips to improve their writing. Her ideas, such as answering 'so what' in every sentence of your research paper, or avoiding 'elegant variation', will help those who are so used to writing in high styles that they (we) obscure the message. The audience for the book appears to be reasonably experienced writers who deal in complexity, and who need a refresher on how to make their writing more understandable and interesting. This is well worth the few dollars, and if any writer puts her rules into practice, their writing will be more interesting and, therfore, more widely read.
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