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Writing Under Pressure: The Quick Writing Process (Oxford paperbacks) [Paperback]

by Sanford Kaye
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 13, 1990 0195066618 978-0195066616 Reprint
Most writing is done under pressure. An executive has to produce a three-page position paper by tomorrow at nine. A department head suddenly has to write a one-page action memo by noon. A graduate student has a twenty-page research paper due in a week. Yet, while most students and professionals write under pressure--with limited time, limited space, and a supervisor or instructor to please--few approach the task systematically.
In Writing Under Pressure, Sanford Kaye, a renowned expert on the subject, presents a system he calls the Quick Writing Process (QWP) that focuses on real-world writing tasks and demonstrates how to produce the clearest, most honest, most powerful work possible under the constraints of time and space. A writing instructor with twenty-five years' experience teaching students and professionals in business and government, Kaye tells writers how to budget their time and how to use this time efficiently.
Exploring particular writing situations in which QWP can be applied to make the most of what the writer knows, Kaye discusses the process of taking exams, focusing on how instructors select questions and evaluate essays. He also considers writing in business and government, featuring an insightful analysis of a memo written by Colonel Oliver North. This memo highlights one of the most important issues writers in business and government face: whether to write the truth as they see it or simply what their bosses want to hear. Presenting a wealth of such examples, Kaye reveals how to break through stifling organizational codes in order to write memos and position papers that count.
While most guides to writing ignore the constraints of time and space, Writing Under Pressure tackles these problems head on, making it an essential reference for students, business professionals, government officials, or anyone else faced with a difficult writing assignment that has to be done now.

Frequently Bought Together

Writing Under Pressure: The Quick Writing Process (Oxford paperbacks) + The Craft of Research, Third Edition (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) + The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
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Editorial Reviews


"A useful system for getting started and getting finished."--Anne M. Durbin, Bryn Mawr College

"More useful than any comparable writer's handbook for the kind of writing that most students actually have to do."--Paul Teverow, Missouri Southern State College

"Upper division students invariably say that this is the most useful they have encountered in college on how to write."--Dr. Bill M. Donovan, Loyola College in Maryland

"A good book which I will order as an optional reading."Eric Graig, Queens College

"Will be enormously helpful to many different kinds of students. It directly and engagingly addresses real writers coping with real tasks, and presents practical solutions to common difficulties....Kaye avoids the egotism and artificiality that plague many who counsel beginning writers; he frees his reader to write independently, responsibly, and effectively in all circumstances."--Prudence L. Steiner, Director, Expository Writing Program, Harvard University Extension School

"This book tells us not just how to write, but how to live....[Kaye's] writer is a jujitsu artist who turns hostile, external pressure into force of feeling and expression."--Joseph G. Mayer, Principal Software Writer, Wang Laboratories, Inc.

"This is the best kind of writing book. Reading it lifts a veil from your eyes as it makes easily understandable those 'hidden' rules we've all occasionally followed, but have rarely if ever verbalized....A time-saver for anybody who writes under pressure."--Luis Hurtado-Sanchez, Integrated Office Systems Manager, Hewlett-Packard Company

"Kaye has done a great service to those of us...who must produce clear, persuasive, and action oriented writing as an essential part of our jobs....A useful and entertaining book."--Thomas J. Kelly, Vice President, IRM, Grumman Corporation

About the Author

Sanford Kaye is a teacher and consultant at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He also teaches in the Harvard University Extension School and is the Director of the Essential Skills Center at Curry College. He co-founded the Writing Program at MIT and was a former Director of the Sloan Fellows Executive Training Program Writing Seminars.

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford paperbacks
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Reprint edition (December 13, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195066618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195066616
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An attempt to create a formula for writing January 4, 2010
I can understand Sanford Kaye's objective: provide a program that take the angst out of having to write in high pressure environments, such as a test or presentation at the office. That the author is an academic and his target is primarily students skews this work in a direction it shouldn't really go - and Kaye's sallies into the politics of his day doesn't help matters.

Kaye drops nuggets like "Your goal is a process which allows you to write efficiently and confidently for a reader whom you have placed in an appropriate relationship to your words, and whose questions you have anticipated within the planned structure of your essay, memo, or exam." I can think of a half-dozen ways to express Kaye's meaning in an understandable form, not swaddled with academic window dressing that chokes the meaning out of words. "Conscious, careful selection, whether the representation is a word, symbol, or underlying metaphor, is crucial to both power and clarity in prose." Muddled way of suggesting that you understand the language and choose your words carefully.

Statements like this make up the bulk of this book. The advice is good, but not exceptional. The writing style is dry and dull. The excursions into the politics of the day back then are meaningless to contemporary readers as they were probably at the time.

For the writer who reacts adversely to time pressure, there are many other more generalized books on writing which do the job better.

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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly humane gem on writing, politics, society February 7, 1999
By A Customer
If revolutionaries were also great teachers, or great teacher also revolutionaries, they would write books like this.
For those seeking help with their writing, no book will do a better job. This is a book about writing that truly recognizes the profound difficulties that everyone, beginner or published author, encounters in trying to make what they say clear, and in trying to clarify for themselves what they want to say. It addresses these problems by cutting through all the myths about writing and gets to the heart of the matter by giving you a surprisingly practical technique for digging out the things you really want to say and for giving them a crisp, articulate, and elegant form. Use this book and writing really will get easier and more fulfilling, and right away. You won't believe how easy it is to say what you want to say.
But this isn't just a book about writing -- at least not if you think writing is just about putting words on the page. Kaye also tells us something about writing that few have seen before -- something so elementary that once you see it, you can't believe you (and everyone else) ever missed it.
Boiled down, it is this: the great struggle to express that makes so many of us so insecure really is, in part, a handicap imposed on us by the culture in which we are raised, educated, and shaped. That culture, Kaye suggests, wants us mute. Voiceless, we will not rock the boat, question the way things are, or articulate alternatives. To this end, it tears us down from the moment we start trying to express ourselves, teaching us time and time again that our ideas make no sense and that our efforts at expression are embarassingly clumsy. Ashamed, we shut up, and stop trying to tell the world about our insights, our passions, or ourselves.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the Writing book you want on your shelf May 22, 2004
When I first got into college, I had absolutely no idea how to
write. I had written papers in high school, yet it had always been an agonizing process. As a result, I dreaded every paper assignment, and put off writing until the last minute. Then, one day, in the midst of such procrastination, I discovered this book on the library's shelf.
Shelved between two books on grammar, this book looked like another long-winded treatise on sentence construction. Yet after opening the book, I was pleasantly surprised.
Sanford Kaye's book, Writing Under Pressure, puts forth an interesting, well thought out strategy for writing papers. Through a case study, and then specific applications, he outlines his strategy in a clear, easily understandable way that is immediately applicable. Yet this is not this book's main strength. Kaye clearly loves writing, and he communicates this in a way that makes the reader feel the same way. Now, this is the book I turn to whenever I feel overwhelmed by a writing task. So if you are looking for a book on writing, or even if you are not, you cannot do better than Sanford Kaye's Writing Under Pressure.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you can read, you can write . . . June 2, 2001
By A Customer
This book takes the !!ARRGH!! out of writing. Concentrating on academic assignments, the author, who has been there-done that, lets students in on his secrets of how to relax and make ANY subject interesting to the writer - and, therefore, the reader. Writing Under Pressure is clearly written (the author practices what he preaches), but contains enough lightness and human touches to make you forget you're not reading it for pleasure. I would recommend this book to someone who is learning (or re-learning) how to write assigned term papers or essays.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick and complete. January 12, 2008
More than a how to write fast manual this book addresses the process of writing from start to finish. The steps are laid out in an easy to follow fashion with gems like "talent is the result of consistent practice" dispensed along the way. The author advocates a structured thought process without falling into the programmatic do's and don'ts of the ordinary writing text. In summary, great for a new writer or rusty writer looking for a writing framework to make the process easier. If you already have an efficient writing stlye then not needed, for the rest of us, great book.
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