Self Talk: 5 things good writers never say

Self Talk: 5 things good writers never say

These are some things good writers never say.  So if you catch yourself saying them, ask yourself why! 

 

 

#5: "There's no point in writing till I have all my results."

Doing research and writing one at a time is about as efficient as riding a bicycle one wheel at a time.  Writing is a way of clarifying thinking; so to plan to think after having done the research is to lose out on all synergies.  Most good research writers start writing the moment they have an idea.  

 

#4: "Rewriting is a waste of time."

Perhaps. If you spend hours crafting perfect sentences in your early drafts and then end up changing your central argument, you will have wasted some time.  But if you write skeleton drafts focusing on key structural elements, as many professional writers do, each rewrite will help you strengthen your argument.  

 

#3: "My writing just needs a style edit; there are some content-related issues too, but they have nothing to do with writing."

This is true and also untrue.  The writing may need a style edit.  But content is very closely related to writing through the other aspect of writing: structure.  The main point of a paragraph in the results section, for instance, is intimately connected with what a regression was designed to identify, which is related with the overall argument a paper makes.   So content-related issues are actually very difficult to separate from writing issues.

 

#2: "If you were a ....(labor/macro/theory/econometrics person)..., you would understand."

The burden of making sure that readers comprehend is on the writer.  So if you don't understand the things I am saying, it is my responsibility to try harder or try something different.  If I have tried everything and for some reason, am stuck with a remarkably obtuse reader, perhaps it is no longer my responsibility.  But in reality, such readers are very rare.  

So if a reader confesses that they haven't understood something in your writing, thank them for pointing it out, and take steps to make it clearer.

 

#1: "I'm a pretty good writer."

I am startled every time I hear this, and I have been startled many times.  Can you imagine Austen or Dickens or Hemingway saying this?   If anyone must say this about a writer, surely, it is the reader. 

Never mind literary figures--let's look closer to home: Greg Mankiw says about himself, "I think of myself as a mediocre writer." 

Instead of worrying about being a good writer, just work hard at writing, and allow readers to assess each piece on its individual strengths.  No writer always produces good writing; in fact, I am not sure if we can find a piece of writing without its highs and lows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post by Varanya Chaubey
Image by Almonroth (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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