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Stylish Academic Writing Hardcover – 3 Apr 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (3 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674064488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674064485
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.1 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"As an academic staff or student wouldn't you like people to enjoy reading your work? In Stylish Academic Writing, Helen Sword offers dozens of suggestions as to how you might improve your work, get your argument across in a more appealing manner, and attract more readers. We can all learn something useful from this book, and it won't involve a lot of effort."--Malcolm Tight, Editor, Studies in Higher Education

"Dare to write clearly and engagingly whatever the audience, Helen Sword urges junior and senior scholars alike in a myth-busting guide to good academic prose. You have nothing to lose but your enunciatory modality" --THE, Thursday 6 September 2012

About the Author

Helen Sword is Associate Professor in the Centre for Academic Development at the University of Auckland.


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wow, can this girl write. 'Spellbound' would be the word that springs to mind: for Prof. Sword has a beautiful turn of phrase, that I accept I will aspire to all my life, but will be unlikely to ever attain.
The book impresses on so many levels. Firstly: it's a beautiful book, nicely bound, lovely graphics on the cover, precisely printed with amazing, effortless punctuation and precise placing of each word. Secondly: though one could argue that it's a dry subject, Prof Sword handles it beautifully, entertainingly and with alacrity. Thirdly: though it is American spelling throughout: the text is crafted with clear and concise prose that is a delight to read.
What struck me on watching one of the latest Hollywood blockbusters last weekend, was just how quickly the American language is diverging from classical English: for it no longer comes down to the spelling of color or colour, but also the very basis on which our sentences rest. The film was intriguing in the sense that it had some wonderful dialogue on one hand, and on the other, whole strings of words and sentences that were unintelligible! This is a shame: for surely it must be the first duty of any author or writer to communicate with his/her audience. ( I am certain that many Americans would have the same view of some English writers).

The NHS is presently going through a drive whereby patients can request copies of clinic letters. This, at first glance is a good thing. My problem, which the author highlights unequivocally, is that often clever, learned people hide behind impenetrable jargon and see no need to explain it to their audience - in this instance my patients!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this as a resource for an undergraduate essay writing class that I teach, but it's turned out to be very useful in my own writing. Sword identifies a number of key problems with much academic writing - poor structure, too many abstract nouns, horrible titles, unnecessary use of jargon, etc. - that I was embarrassed to identify in my own written work. Each chapter ends with suggestions for improving your own writing - some of which I've already put to the test, and found incredibly helpful. My only complaint - and it's a relatively minor one - is that some chapters are a bit heavy on quantitative data. It's great to know that Sword has done her homework, but a bit tedious to have to read about it in so much detail! Apart from that - highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was disappointed with this book. The title promised such a lot. Whilst I agree with Helen Sword that some academic writing is bad, I don't agree that nearly all of it is (at least not in my field of medieval literary study): 'so much uninspring, cookie-cutter prose'. Not only is this negative assessment lacking in generosity about people's hard work, it also makes it impossible to give this book to students as a guide to writing; it is likely to undermine their faith in their teachers as writing practitioners.
This is not really a writing guide, it is rather a sociological or anthropological study of academic writing habits in a few disciplines and takes, as a special focus, bad examples. Sword writes as if she is an outside observer: 'I assembled a data set of one thousand academic articles from across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities'. Frequently it sets out its case statistically: '8 percent of the computer scientists include at least one "engaging" element in their titles, such as a quote, a pun, or a question'. On the other hand, its writing advice is banal, suggesting academics hold out for 3 'ideals': 'communication, craft, and creativity'.
I bought this book in order to reflect on my own writing practice. I learned, by reading against the argument of this book, that a good and well-thought-out argument is indispensible. Because the content of this book was so scanty and mean, I can't agree it is, itself, well written.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a textbook on how to write. But what an entertaining textbook! And it is not just for Academics; the rest of us can also benefit. Yes, it has many wordy examples of what is bad, and others of what is good, but knitting it all together is Helen Sword's light and engaging narrative.

We might skip the less interesting examples, and we don't often need to follow any of the copious references neatly linked from the text, and the Things To Try are analogous to the 'exercises' we used to find at the end of each chapter in the Maths book, except, delightfully, many of these TTT are interesting and fun.

Her opening paragraph in Chapter One mentions my heroes Strunk and White and immediately I warmed to her. Reading on, so many times in the book she picks up on things I have also fought against when preparing technical documents; she is always hammering her points about simplicity, use of good English, avoiding convoluted hanging clauses, and cutting out jargon. She reinforces these themes with surprisingly detailed and rigorous analysis and relevant examples.

This is the first time I have actually enjoyed reading something I should class as a textbook. In several places I felt myself cheering her on. I have been working on trying to improve my writing style for several years, and had dribbled to a halt, but this gives me new ground to cover and with any luck it might take me on to a another level. To my surprise, I think I might have just become a fan!

Thank you Vine for giving me the opportunity to benefit from reading this.
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