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Stylish Academic Writing Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0674064485 ISBN-10: 0674064488

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674064488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674064485
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

As an academic—staff or student—wouldn't you like people to enjoy reading your work? In Stylish Academic Writing, Helen Sword offers dozens of suggestions as to how you might improve your work, get your argument across in a more appealing manner, and attract more readers. We can all learn something useful from this book, and it won't involve a lot of effort. (Malcolm Tight, Editor, Studies in Higher Education)

Stylish Academic Writing challenges academics to make their work more consequential by communicating more clearly—and provides helpful hints and models for doing so. This is a well-crafted and valuable contribution that combines substance with style. (Arne L. Kalleberg, Editor, Social Forces)

Occasionally the tedium of reading an unending supply of poorly written manuscripts is upended by a cogent, well-written, piece. Helen Sword details why this is so prevalent and offers sage advice to beginning—and even senior—researchers on how to avoid dulling academic prose. I take her advice to heart. I hope to change my numerous bad habits and I dearly wish those submitting manuscripts would read this book. (Rick K. Wilson, Editor, American Journal of Political Science)

Helen Sword's brilliant little volume is in many respects the ideal companion to Stephen J. Pyne's equally brilliant Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Non-Fiction (Harvard) and equally deserving of a wider audience than its target group, which in this case comprises those academics who either write or have to put up with "impersonal, stodgy, jargon-laden, abstract prose." As Sword writes: "Elegant data and ideas deserve elegant expression." Featuring oodles of ideas and tips backed up by lashings of original research and bursting to the seams with case studies exemplifying the good, the bad and the ugly of academic writing ("via a symbolic interactionist lens" is one such monster), this is a must for writers in any discipline. (William Yeoman West Australian 2012-06-19)

[Sword's] counsel is wise, efficiently written, and infectiously winsome. She advises academic writers to use anecdotes and carefully chosen metaphors, and to write opening sentences that encourage readers to keep reading. She has drawn from a massive array of academic articles (more than a thousand) and given particular attention to authors known for writing readable material...Helen Sword's book contains much wisdom...Stylish Academic Writing contains superb counsel for academics who want to write with greater clarity and skill. (Barton Swaim Weekly Standard 2012-09-03)

[A] practical and useful book. (Colin Steele Australian Book Review 2012-10-01)

Sword has produced a sleek and, yes, nicely written guide based on the principle that "elegant ideas deserve elegant expression." Aiming to be useful to writers in almost any discipline, Sword defines stylish academic writing in the broadest terms. (Jennifer Howard Times Literary Supplement 2012-12-21)

Surely it's time to declare war on terms such as postsemioticist, flip-flop gates and feature theory, terms Orwell would surely have included under his definition of obscurity as a cuttlefish defensively spurting out ink. Anyway, let's hope this excellent new book is a sign that things are about to change. (Bradley Winterton Taipei Times 2013-02-26)

Stylish Academic Writing offers pithy, thoughtful, and concrete guidance on ways to improve writing about scholarly research (or anything else for that matter) so that it is engaging to others...Teachers of writing at the college level will want to read the book so as to help stem the tide of overly formal, dry-as-dust term papers that are still standard fare in many classes.
(Dana S. Dunn Psychology Today 2013-07-18)

About the Author

Helen Sword is Professor and Director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
It is an easy read - not too technical.
Misty Janski
Useful advice on how to make academic prose interesting and readable, along with fine examples from many fields, will undoubtedly send scholars in the right direction.
James Donelan
I highly recommend it for all practiced and aspiring academic writers.
VW_fan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Donelan on October 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Helen Sword's perspective on academic writing is both timely and helpful. For at least fifteen years, discussion of academic writing style has either deplored it or defended it, without really figuring out what was wrong. The Bad Writing Contest and the Sokal Hoax showed us just how tangled up academic style had become, but failed to distinguish between a stylistic problem and outright fraud. The other side simply defended the indefensible: jargon for jargon's sake. What Sword had done here is point a way forward. Useful advice on how to make academic prose interesting and readable, along with fine examples from many fields, will undoubtedly send scholars in the right direction. An excellent, if brief, book, and what I hope will be the beginning of a positive direction in writing, especially in the humanities.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anson Cassel Mills on May 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Sword's advice for writing better academic prose isn't novel, but it's sound. As have other writing manuals, she urges scholars to reduce their adverbs, passives, "be" verbs, abstractions, nominalizations, prepositional phrases, and demonstrative pronouns. Her online diagnostic tool, "WritersDiet," is an amusing way of becoming more aware of one's own participation in the leaden style authorized by the academy.

Sword's book also provides examples of good scholarly prose, some truly stylish and others at least acceptable, if not rousing. Sword herself writes well enough, though many of her sentences might be tweaked and tightened. For instance, the following paragraph (112) is both clear and amusing:

"Every discipline has its own specialized language, its membership rites, its secret handshake. I remember the moment when, as a PhD student in comparative literature, I casually dropped phrase "psychosexual morphology" into a discussion of a Thomas Hardy novel. What power! From the professor's approving nod and the envious shuffling of my fellow students around the seminar table, I knew that I had just flashed the golden badge that admitted me into an elite disciplinary community. Needless to say, my new party trick fell flat on my nonacademic friends and relations. Whenever I solemnly intoned the word `Foucauldian,' they quickly went off to find another beer." (106 words)

Still, it could be tightened to good effect:

"Every discipline has its own specialized language, its secret code.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Silvia on June 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In academia, everyone prefers reading good writing but believes that everyone else wants tedious writing---a classic case of what social psychologists call "pluralistic ignorance." Helen Sword's book aims to motivate people to try an earthier, more human sound and to give them a sense of possibility and permission. After describing the sad state of writing across different fields, she offers advice and provides examples for academics who want to write well.

This is a good book: I enjoyed it and got much food for thought from it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gaye Annette Greenwood on December 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Helen walks the talk. Complex but parsimonious this book inspired me to experiment with different approaches.
Visually minimalist exemplars provide creative ideas for presenting academically rigorous research with flair.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin on November 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Really good pointers in an easy-to-read and short format. The price is good for the value that is provided, has potential for both beginners and experienced academic writers alike.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By pencilsforall on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. It analyzes types of academic texts and provides useful examples from author's favorite writing. It also has helpful "try-this" sections at the end of each chapter which are fun. It's a good read. Glad I found this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Misty Janski on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book really helped me in my professional and personal writing. It is an easy read - not too technical. I enjoyed it so much that I have decided to keep the book even though the class is over.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F. M. Griffith on July 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Helen provides examples of exemplary writing, explaining what to look for and how to improve. Ideal for academics of all levels, highly recommended for PhD students wishing to advance their skills. Also the established academic who wants to refresh their ability
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