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Stylish Academic Writing [Format Kindle]

Helen Sword

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Elegant ideas deserve elegant expression. Sword dispels the myth that you can’t get published without writing wordy, impersonal prose. For scholars frustrated with disciplinary conventions or eager to write for a larger audience, here are imaginative, practical, witty pointers that show how to make articles and books enjoyable to read—and to write.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 étoiles sur 5  35 commentaires
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 More than a touch of genius 23 novembre 2014
Par Jennifer Grey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
E. F. Schumacher once wrote that any intelligent fool could make things bigger and more complex, but that it took a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. Helen Sword's Stylish Academic Writing displays just the genius necessary to inspire academics to get up their courage to free their writing of the jargon-heavy passivity choking the life out of it (and their readers).

Unlike other guides, Sword brings massive research to bear on the 'problem' of academic writing: the first part of her work describes how she analyzed one thousand academic articles across ten different disciplines, as well as books and articles by one hundred academic writers recommended by their peers for the quality of their writing, and one hundred recently published style guides for academic writers in order to draw her conclusions. When was the last time you read a writing guide that devoted three full chapters to methodology?

From there, Sword goes on to explore eleven techniques displayed by stylish writers across the disciplines she studied, and each chapter contains both specific examples, good and bad, and simple directives for practices readers can use to improve their own writing. It's all so elegant that Strunk and White (who do get name-dropped several times throughout) would weep with joy.

Sword acknowledges that academic writing concerns itself with difficult, sometimes abstruse topics, and that sometimes jargon and nominalizations are appropriate to the task at hand. But smart, she argues, doesn't have to mean stultifying. Here's hoping publishing academics find her as persuasive as I did.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Intelligent, useful book 9 octobre 2012
Par James Donelan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
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.
15 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Countering the leaden prose style of the academy 24 mai 2013
Par Anson Cassel Mills - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
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. When, as a PhD student in comparative literature, I casually dropped the phrase "psychosexual morphology" into a discussion of a Thomas Hardy novel, the professor's approving nod and the envious shuffling of fellow students revealed that I had been welcomed into an elite academic community. Needless to say, the same trick did not work with non-academics. Solemnly intoning the word `Foucauldian' sent them off after another beer." (77 words)

As a historian, I think my real problem with this book is that I don't want to write stylish academic prose. I want to write like David McCullough and Ron Chernow.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Intriguing and Fruitful 12 juin 2013
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
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.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Highly recommended 23 décembre 2014
Par Rebecca Mugridge - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Author Helen Sword read and analyzed 1,000 articles published in academic journals in 10 disciplines to determine what constitutes stylish academic writing. She also studied 100 recently-published style guides to see where they agreed and differed on points of academic writing style. In Stylish Academic Writing she shares what she's learned about what makes a good article. In fourteen chapters she discusses voice, sentence construction, titles, hooks, jargon, article structure, citation style, creative academic writing, and more.

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.
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