- Hardcover: 238 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (3 April 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674064488
- ISBN-13: 978-0674064485
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,89,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Stylish Academic Writing Hardcover – 3 Apr 2012
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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 20120619 [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 20120903 [A] practical and useful book. -- Colin Steele Australian Book Review 20121001
About the Author
Helen Sword is Associate Professor in the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Auckland.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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.