Here are cognitive scientist Steven Pinker's 13 tips for better writing

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/27/here-are-cognitive-scientist-s.html

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13. Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. Consult a dictionary with usage notes, and a thesaurus.

Roger That!

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“Short words are best, and old words when short are best of all.”–Winston Churchill, a notorious warmonger who nevertheless knew a lot about writing good English prose.

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Steven Pinker’s 13 notes for non-technical writing.

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Too bad he uses these rules for decrying “political correctness” and other neoliberal dogwhistles.

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So maybe he’s opposed to basic human decency. Helpful of him to tell us.

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Fuck that shite head.

edit:

Pinker was also a member of the Human Biodiversity Institute - the SPLC notes its leadership includes:

Jean-Phillippe Rushton, a prominent researcher on black genetic inferiority who is president of a pro-eugenics hate group, the Pioneer Fund;

Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, which purported to show black and Latino intellectual inferiority;

Kevin MacDonald, a professor at California State University at Long Beach who has written several books about supposed Jewish strategies to subvert "Euro-American" culture; and

Gregory Cochrane, a physicist who has suggested the existence of a genetic "gay germ."

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I find that number 12 is a good one. Even better if someone else can read it back to you. If you read it yourself, it’s easy to replace/fill in words without realizing it.

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i. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

— George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

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I worked with someone who did that all the time! I finally was able to convince them to allow me to read back some of their copy to them. Once I stumbled on the third word that was missing or misspelled, they at last agreed to use someone as a copy editor before publishing.

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Awright, “paradigm” is still in the clear!

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Indeed.

(But the best short word needs 9 characters, apparently!)

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He might be a shit head, but he’s also a great writer.

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I hear that Richard Spencer has a lovely singing voice.

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Steven Pinker! Noooooo… I mean, just because he believes that humanities people are scum and he can do our job better than us… /s

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As @KathyPadilla notes, there are plenty of other great writers out there who aren’t assholes. I’ll go check out one of them…

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As a humble addendum: paragraphs are meant to be the smallest unit of an argument sandwich. Start with an assertion, (“topic sentence”). Then some reasons to believe that as the contents of the sandwich. As a last sentence restate how those reasons should convince one of the initial assertion. And/or don’t paragraph randomly.

Unless it’s a work of fiction. Then you may do whatever your unreliable narrator wants, declares Jeremy with high dudgeon.

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I know plenty of four letter anglo-saxon words, and anglo-saxon is very old. I can’t wait to use them for writing better.

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Unless it’s a work of fiction. Then you may do whatever your unreliable narrator wants, declares Jeremy with high dudgeon.

There’s still “rules” for that, they’re just different.

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14- Start with a blank slate?

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