from the world's big
Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better
The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.
- Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
- When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
- Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
1. Reverse-engineer what you read.
1. Reverse-engineer what you read. If it feels like good writing, what makes it good? If it’s awful, why?— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397620.0
2. Prose is a window onto the world.
2. Prose is a window onto the world. Let your readers see what you are seeing by using visual, concrete language.— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397620.0
3. Don’t go meta.
3. Don’t go meta. Minimize concepts about concepts, like “approach, assumption, concept, condition, context, framew… https://t.co/SSssjN9QmJ— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397621.0
4. Let verbs be verbs.
4. Let verbs be verbs. “Appear,” not “make an appearance.”— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397622.0
5. Beware of the Curse of Knowledge.
5. Beware of the Curse of Knowledge: when you know something, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like not to know it. M… https://t.co/eaV5GmrLqx— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397623.0
Interlude: Steven Pinker's take on human nature. Is it evil?
6. Omit needless words.
6. Omit needless words (Will Strunk was right about this).— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397623.0
7. Avoid clichés like the plague.
7. Avoid clichés like the plague (thanks, William Safire).— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397623.0
8. Old information at the beginning, new information at the end.
8. Old information at the beginning of the sentence, new information at the end.— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397624.0
9. Save the heaviest for last.
9. Save the heaviest for last: a complex phrase should go at the end of the sentence.— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397624.0
Interlude: Steven Pinker's take on libertarianism (at any age, it's marginal).
10. Prose must cohere.
10. Prose must cohere: readers must know how each sentence is related to the preceding one. If it’s not obvious, us… https://t.co/Go2D8Y47yx— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397626.0
11. Revise several times.
11. Revise several times with the single goal of improving the prose.— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397626.0
12. Read it aloud.
12. Read it aloud.— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397627.0
13. Find the best word.
13. Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. Consult a dictionary with usage notes, and a thesaurus.— Steven Pinker (@Steven Pinker)1547397627.0
Want to dig further into Pinker's writing style? Here's the book he wrote on the subject. Enjoy!
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