- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press; 31698th edition (April 2, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674064488
- ISBN-13: 978-0674064485
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Stylish Academic Writing 31698th Edition
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Two of the chapters speak most to me: the one on voice, and the other on citation style. They both speak to pet peeves of mine. The first is when an author has to mangle their writing to avoid using the first person. Much of the writing in library science is reporting on a project or case study, in which the author is simply telling a story about how a project was launched, carried out or successfully completed. It makes no sense to not be able to use the first person when telling this story. But if you look at much of the library science literature, you'll see many of these stories told in a way that puts a distance between the reader and what's being shared. This makes the article harder to read, and less interesting. Articles should be written in a way that conveys all of the important information that the author is trying to share, but in a way that will increase readership. Writing in the first person can help with that goal. Sword advocates for the use of the first person when possible.
My second pet peeve has to do with citation styles that require the author to put names, dates, and sometimes page numbers in parentheses right in the text. When I read an article that has a lot of citations, I sometimes find it difficult to follow the threads of a sentence or paragraph through all of these parenthetical citations. The simple use of endnotes, identified with a superscripted number, avoids this problem. Sentences and paragraphs with the simple numbered indication of an endnote are much easier to read and comprehend than one with the citations in parentheses interrupting the flow. Again, the goal is to share information and increase the readership of each article, and a simpler citation style does that. Sword supports the use of simpler citation styles that don't interrupt the flow of the article.
While I'm only highlighting two issues in this review, Sword's book is full of good advice. She illustrates all of her chapters with both good and bad examples so readers can understand what makes good writing, and what hinders comprehension. I believe this book would be useful to all academics who want to improve their writing.
But of course I think there are practical reasons for not following the author's advice in many cases as well. For example, most of us read papers to find information that we need. Thus a predictable structure of writing and very little figurative language or very little use of "unnecessary literary flare" are definitely very welcome. If we can just glance at a 50-page paper and figure out where we can find the information we need, and finish reading those paragraphs in the least amount of time possible, we are making good progress. The kind of stylish writing that the author proposes is sometimes "verbose" and not straight to the point. Second, using too much creative writing for academic purposes might not present the academic ideas correctly. Sometimes academic writing has to be very precise. Using literary techniques sometimes brings about unnecessary vagueness. Thus I think maybe that is also one reason why some authors try to avoid using literary language in their scientific work.
One more thing that I want to point out is that the author holds the view that we as educated readers and peers should be able to understand the work of our peers in other disciplines if they write clearly. I think this is true in some cases. But for many disciplines there are just so much terminology, conceptual framework, contextual knowledge that it is just not possible for a layperson to understand the writings in those disciplines.