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Economical Writing 2nd Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1577660637
ISBN-10: 1577660633
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  • Economical Writing
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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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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: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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. This book should be required reading, not just for all Ph.D. candidates in all business disciplines, but for all undergraduates, as well. In fact, any non-fiction writer will benefit from reading this book. It's first-rate in every respect.
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