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Writing Tips for Economists

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Jan• 08•10

Here are some writing tips from “Writing Economics” by Robert Neugeboren with Mireille Jacobson:

  • Outline. Organize your ideas into an argument with the help of an outline.
  • Define the important terms.
  • Use the Active Voice.
  • Put Statements in Positive Form.  Don’t write “Many day-traders did not pay attention to the warnings of experts.” Instead use “Many day-traders ignored the warnings of experts.”
  • Omit Needless Words.
  • Stick to One Tense in Summaries.
  • Summaries and Repetition.  “When writing up your empirical results focus only on what is important
    and be as clear as possible. You may feel that you are repeating yourself and that the reader may be offended at how closely you are leading him or her through your tables and graphs but, to paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith, both smart and dumb readers will appreciate your pointing things out directly and clearly. The dumb readers need the help, and the smart ones will take silent pleasure in the knowledge that they didn’t need your assistance!”
  • Edit yourself, remove what is not needed, and keep revising until you get down to a simple, efficient way of communicating.

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One Comment

  1. Meg Wildrick says:

    Nice post. Too often, people with something to say don’t know how to say it. As a result, the public (including people you really want/need to reach) tunes out.

    There are three important points I’d add to your list. First, think through your so-whats (the implications of what you’re saying) and communicate them up front. This will capture your reader’s attention and let them know why your article/post/paper is important. Second, use stories and examples to illustrate your points. If you don’t have real-life stories at your disposal, use hypotheticals — or reference stories in the public domain such as news headlines, survey examples and/or well-known case studies. Statistics convince; stories engage. Third, remember your audience — and their level of sophistication. If you are writing for peers, your style can be more technical, more sophisticated. If, however, you are writing for a broader audience (including the general public), keep their interests firmly in mind. Use words they’ll understand — and examples that will engage them.

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