Monday, June 9, 2014

Steven Pinker on Writing

Steven Pinker makes many of the same arguments I have on this blog about how to write well in an Edge interview. He points out that in order to write well, you have to be a reader and to learn, through reading, how to write well.
The first step to being a good writer is to be a good reader: to read a lot, and to savor and reverse-engineer good prose wherever you find it. That is, to read a passage of writing and think to yourself, … "How did the writer achieve that effect? What was their trick?" And to read a good sentence with a consciousness of what makes it so much fun to glide through.
There is much that writers can learn from psycholinguistics. The existence of rules is one. The flexibility of rules over time is another. Yet that flexibility is exactly that: over time. The rules are what they are at any given time. And, more, there are different rules for different audiences. Knowing what those are matter.

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