In case you were wondering why I sound less tedious lately

roy_clarkBlogging has forced me to become a better writer. Or so I conclude after reading a paper I wrote two years ago. What a bore!

Now, I would have preferred to become a faster writer (my prose production is laborious) but I’ll settle for less gruesome. One of the things that helped was Roy Clark’s Writing Tools beside my bed.

There are 50 chapters, with 50 tips. “Begin sentences with subjects and verbs,” is one. “Take it easy on the -ings” is another, as are “Set the pace with sentence length” and “Place strong words at the beginning and at the end.” Periodically I will read a chapter (they are all very short) and try to keep it in mind in my next blog post, funding proposal, or paper section. After a while it becomes natural.

Clark is the vice-President of the Poynter Institute, a prestigious school of journalism. My favorite volume is still William Zinsser’s classic,  and few can compete with writing advice from George Orwell, but Clark’s book is one of the few others I’ve found helpful.

5 thoughts on “In case you were wondering why I sound less tedious lately

  1. Thanks for the suggestion. I love and regularly refer to the writing checklist John Gaddis distributes to his classes. My favorite (named for Alexander Haig, who said, “Let’s caveat that”): “Avoid Haigisms, the art of turning a perfectly good noun into a perfectly atrocious verb.”

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! I always felt that I missed out on learning writing skills in grad school.

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