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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful, constructive suggestions, 12 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
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Writing a book about writing is fraught with danger. If the author expresses something inelegantly or with a lack of clarity it can seriously undermine the message. Helen Sword avoids this pitfall by writing in a clear, authoritative and engaging way. If there is one key message from this book - and I think there is - it is that academics should give more consideration to how they write. Academics (particularly in my own field of law) tend to use jargon in the form of legal terminology which is not easily comprehended by the layman. This encourages the use, subconsciously, of other jargon which is unnecessary. Academics also fall into the trap of seeking to flaunt their intellectual prowess by the use of unusual words or unduly complex sentences.

This book is really an attempt to break some of the shackles of academic writing by encouraging authors to recognise that there is no "right or wrong" way to write. Think about the target readership. Try to express complex ideas as simply as possible. The use of short sentences can be a valuable technique.

As the book is aimed at an academic audience it has to be based upon a foundation of research. Academics won't take it seriously if you just write something based on 30 years experience of reading academic texts. So, Helen Sword has done the research and analysed 1,000 academic articles. She has also gone beyond her own discipline to do this and this is admirable. The task of going even further and considering good writing from high quality non-academic sources would have been an interesting addition but probably impractical. The reporting of the quantitative research data was rather heavy going, though I understand why it was included. I thought that it lessened the impact of the book but overall it is a very helpful work with many useful and constructive suggestions.
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