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Stylish Academic Writing Kindle Edition
About the Author
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.-- (06/19/2012)
It's a weird and complicated experience, picking up a book that covers familiar territory and realizing it's better than what you might have written. That was the case when I first read Helen Sword's Stylish Academic Writing.-- (07/31/2017)
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.-- (02/26/2013)
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
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" (07/18/2013)
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
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
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" (12/21/2012)
[A] practical and useful book.--Colin Steele"Australian Book Review" (10/01/2012) --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B008J2GCZ8
- Publisher : Harvard University Press (16 April 2012)
- Language : English
- File size : 1428 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 229 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 264,213 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Helen Sword invites us in Stylish Academic Writing to open our windows wide to let the light in, she prompts us to shuffle our furniture around and add some tasteful cushions and candlesticks to make guests feel welcomed and inspired. Such an approach might work very nicely for the dean’s rooms, but what about the Spartan office of a young tutor or even the chaotic accommodation of most undergraduates? Would a trendy anecdote help a researcher to get an article published in a peer-reviewed journal? Would a brave, ambitious use of I boost up marks for an essay?
Responses to Sword’s suggestions for stylish academic writing are likely to reflect the very divide in academic culture that her book explores. Helen Sword has carried out extensive research, looking at a wealth of academic articles in a wide range of disciplines, mining them for clichés and gems alike. She assures us that a considerable number of authors now dare to use I, instead of the ubiquitous impersonal structures, reaching out to their readers. They also deploy techniques more common in newspapers and literary texts, such as metaphors, analogies, humour and catchy titles. Sword exhorts us to write more audaciously, to claim our freedom from disciplinary and institutional straitjackets, to communicate abstract matters in a clear and graphic way. If this attitude can seem like artistic hubris, it is also worth remembering that learners do benefit more from such simple, clear explanations. Ultimately, it is to be hoped that articles are still written for an educational purpose, rather than simple career advancement. However, teachers are also very aware of how difficult it is for most students to differentiate between journalistic and academic prose. We spend a lot of energy showing them how to write in an academic style, and in many courses that means an impersonal, abstract style with little appreciation for confusing room layouts and fanciful ornaments.
It is tempting and probably worthwhile to extract some good advice from Sword's book to help our learners to improve the sentences and structure of their work: keep nouns and verbs close together; use concrete nouns and dynamic verbs; take care with all those words that litter your writing, be, it, this, there. We can convince students to take the advice if we add that these techniques can lead to more concise expression, hence keeping to the word count in assignments. De-cluttering as Sword suggests, minimizing adjectives, adverbs and other extraneous elements, will empower our students in their hard efforts to synthesize sources and answer questions to the point.
On the other hand, I would weigh more carefully the possibility of inviting them to use a personal voice, in the form of the pronoun I, inventive analogies or relevant anecdotes, unless these devices are tolerated or even valued in their disciplines and institutions. The approach is clearly viable for confident professionals who feel well supported in their research and continuous professional development. However, it still blurs the lines between journalistic and academic prose, thus potentially confusing undergraduates. As a tutor, I may have the power to reward a student for such creative efforts, but once they become an integrated aspect of somebody's writing style, will future tutors feel the same as me? Could we end up giving mixed signals?
Sword's book includes very interesting reflections about the effect that referencing styles have on the way an academic thinks, researches and writes. It is argued that some perspective on point of view is sacrificed in conventions that do not use the authors' first names: is it a man or a woman giving the information in this particular angle? Where titles are not reproduced in the body of the text, we lose the feeling that research is about discussing books. Referencing systems are rules by which we have to play in specific leagues or sports, and we have learnt to adapt to them in diverse circumstances. Similarly, we teachers could explain to students that certain rules are not written in stone, but rather that at various stages in their studies and careers they will be writing in different styles. Ideally, we would be given the opportunity to train them in a variety of styles so they are equipped for life.
Sword, Helen (2012), Stylish Academic Writing, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, Harvard University Press