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Economical Writing [Paperback]

Deirdre McCloskey
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1, 1999 1577660633 978-1577660637 2
Anyone who cares about direct, clear expression should read this lucid, delightful gem by an author who practices what she advises.

Titles of related interest also available from Waveland Press: Brooks-Quigley, Words' Worth: Write Well and Prosper, Second Edition (ISBN 978-1577666776) and Gerard, Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life (ISBN 9781577663393).

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Economical Writing + The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
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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

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: 6.8 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the Best Brief Book on Writing Well November 17, 2000
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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing with Clarity, Brevity and Wit March 22, 2000
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book June 25, 2003
By A Customer
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty, readable guide to non-fiction writing 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Economist: Want to be read? October 2, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Diedre McCloskey has pulled together in a small readable book 31 lessons for improving the quality of writing for economists (and others). The lessons include how to get started writing, how to keep the reader engaged, and many style hints that most surely will improve the writing of any professional trying to communicate to others inside and outside the profession.

A great gift for a student in university,a necessity for a new employee whose job is to write, and a refresher course for those of us who have been writing too long.

After completing the book, I ordered 5 more copies to circulate within the firm.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
The article published under the same title, but under a different name, is better than this version. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little book
The book is quite compact, but pointed out many common mistakes a newbie would make.
It definitely affected many economists' writing, since many professors recommended it to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by kyte
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a great book!
I have read several books on writing.
This one is witty.
I don't think people should follow rules without thinking through the reasons. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Shiwei Yan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great condition
This book arrived brand new and was exactly what I expected. The price was great, especially since I needed this book for class.
Published 4 months ago by Audrey
5.0 out of 5 stars very useful book, both for structuring your thinking and your writing
Loved it. Very useful book that helped me better structure my thinking-and-writing process. Strongly suggest to anybody, not only economists.
Published 4 months ago by Pietro Biroli
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must for economists & other social scientists
As the social sciences, especially economics, become more and more mathematical the ability to write clearly and persuasively has become less important in the development of young... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ChrisW
5.0 out of 5 stars Read before you write another paper!
Academia is finally wising up and switching to a writing style that even the man on the street can read and enjoy. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lizabeth Fautsch
5.0 out of 5 stars First-Rate in Every Respect
Professor Deirdre McCloskey writes about 'the dismal science' in an accessible, elegant, and affecting way. Her humor punches one's funny bone at all the right times. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Warren Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read for Econ majors and English Majors Alike
Excellent succinct guide to writing avoiding the theoretical and focusing in simple practical tips. Even better, lessons can be broken down into 5 minute session chunks. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ben Kellison
5.0 out of 5 stars Research?
A fun and smart introduction into writing a research paper. A must for all Economics majors! My professor had us buy but now I recommend it anyone trying to excell.
Published 9 months ago by Elise R Schapira
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