1/ I…I…I taught a mini-course on writing for economists this week and I’m just…tweeting it out (in abridged form, ~50 tweets)
2/ Mantra: You are a writer. Who writes about econ. Your final product is your written word. Make it good. It matters. You are a writer.
3/ If you write well, you’ll retain more readers, and they will retain more of what you write (to tell their friends)
4/ What’s good writing? It’s clear. If it’s clear, it can be concise. If it’s concise, it can be engaging.
4/a These goals are not in tension - clarity allows you to deliver more meaning with fewer words, and therefore be more concise.
5/ Writing well is hard because you have to imagine (or remember) what it would be like not to know what you already know
6/ Many academics are shy about having a point they want to convince the reader of. Having a point seems biased somehow.
6/a But you have a point. You’re not going to be polemical about it, but you have a point. Be bold about it. Say it early and often.
6/b IMPORTANT: Your point is not that you are smart. If the reader feels dumber than you, you’re probably not writing well.
9/ Same idea from author of King James Bible, good writer (be like the author of the King James Bible):
10/ We’re gonna have the best words. And then the best sentences. Then paragraphs. Then papers.
10/a I will give you general advice, but you’ll learn more in the hours spent reading and editing your own work.
13/ Jargon limits your audience needlessly (and often leads to confusion since jargon defns often slip as use spreads)
14/ Eliminate the needless phrases that pad your writing, especially those that express only vague relationships.
15/ Be as precise as possible. It helps to know shades of meaning that differentiate similar words. (get a usage dictionary to help)
15/a I like this usage guide, but there are other good ones too: amazon.com/Garners-Modern…
17/ You know those Russian novels where every character has like 8 different names? Don’t do that in your econ paper.
17/a If you use a different word to refer to the same thing, readers will get confused, since the different word signals a change
19/a (Unless you're just wrong. Sometimes you realize that when forcing yourself to write clearly.)
20/ Abstractions sound scholarly, but they are missiles aimed at the reader’s understanding and attention.