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.
2. Prose is a window onto the world.
3. Don’t go meta.
4. Let verbs be verbs.
5. Beware of the Curse of Knowledge.
Interlude: Steven Pinker's take on human nature. Is it evil?
6. Omit needless words.
7. Avoid clichés like the plague.
8. Old information at the beginning, new information at the end.
9. Save the heaviest for last.
Interlude: Steven Pinker's take on libertarianism (at any age, it's marginal).
10. Prose must cohere.
11. Revise several times.
12. Read it aloud.
13. Find the best word.
Want to dig further into Pinker's writing style? Here's the book he wrote on the subject. Enjoy!
The Russian-built FEDOR was launched on a mission to help ISS astronauts.
Most people think human extinction would be bad. These people aren't philosophers.
- A new opinion piece in The New York Times argues that humanity is so horrible to other forms of life that our extinction wouldn't be all that bad, morally speaking.
- The author, Dr. Todd May, is a philosopher who is known for advising the writers of The Good Place.
- The idea of human extinction is a big one, with lots of disagreement on its moral value.
Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.
- "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
- "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"