Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Economical Writing

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Sep• 18•08

Soldiers have their gun, musicians their instrument and economists their pen.  Deft writing can elucidate the most esoteric economic ideas; poor writing is boring and impenetrable. Although few realize it, writing is the economist’s trade.

Deirdre McClosky’s Economical Writing is an entertaining, practical guide for any social scientist.  Below is a list of some the book’s quotable insights.

  • “The big secret in economics is that good writing pays well and bad writing pays poorly.”
  • “Poincaré’s good French and Einstein’s good German early in the twentieth century were no small contributors to their influence on mathematics and physics.”
  • “The reader like the consumer is sovereign.”
  • “The teachable trick is getting a first draft. Don’t wait until the research is done to begin writing because writing, to repeat, is a way of thinking.”
  • “If you change the typeface of your draft, you will see it in a new light.”
  • Read your work out loud.
  • “At the end of a session, or at any substantial break, always write down your thoughts, however vague, on what will come next.”
  • “A writer must entertain if she is to be read.”
  • “Use titles for diagrams that state their theme, such as ‘All conferences should happen in the Midwest’ instead of ‘A Model of Transport Costs.'”
  • “Footnotes should guide a reader to sources.  That’s all.”
  • “English achieves coherence by repetition, not by signal.  Repeat and your paragraphs will cohere.”
  • “What is written without effort is generally read without pleasure” – Dr. Samuel Johnson
  • “…the object is not to write so the reader can understand but so that she cannot possibly misunderstand.”
  • “Weak writers these days use too many commas.”
  • “In revision the trick is to delete most commas before ‘the’…”
  • “The most important rule of rearrangement is that the end of the sentence is the place of emphasis.”
  • “The imperative is a good substitute for the passive, especially for taking a reader through mathematical arguments: ‘then divide both sides by x’ instead of ‘both sides are then divided by x.'”
  • “…Be concrete.  A singular word is more concrete than a plural (compare ‘Singular words are more concrete than plurals.”
  • “The rule is to query every ‘this’ or ‘these.’  Take most of these out.”
  • “Be clear.”

I highly recommend this book to any social scientist.

  • McCloskey, Deirdre N, 2nd ed. (2000) Economical Writing, Waveland Press Inc., Long Grove, IL, 98 pages.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.