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How to be a better writer: 6 tips from Harvard master linguist Steven Pinker

Stashed in: @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Writing!, Harvard

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Here are six of Harvard linguist Steven Pinker's six tips for good writing:

  • Be visual and conversational. Be concrete, make your reader see and stop trying to impress.
  • Beware "the curse of knowledge." Have someone read your work and tell you if it makes sense. Your own brain cannot be trusted.
  • Don't bury the lead. Clarity beats suspense. If they don't know what it's about they can't follow along.
  • You don't have to play by the rules, but try. If you play it straight 99 percent of the time, that 1 percent will really shine.
  • Read Read Read. The English language is too complex to learn from one book. Never stop learning.
  • Good writing means revising. Never hit "send" or "print" without reviewing your work — preferably multiple times.

Rules, rules, rules. There is a science behind these words but as Pinker makes clear, language is ever-evolving. It's organic and alive.

So don't forget to have some fun with writing, too. As Oscar  Wilde said:

A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.

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