Written by Roger C. Parker, Published and Profitable, 14 February, 2009. (Originally posted 18 Feb. 2009; reposted 24 February 2010.)
“Deirdre McCloskey’s Economical Writing is ‘required reading’ for all writing lovers.”
I just discovered Deirdre N. McCloskey’s Economical Writing, and I’ve been smiling ever since.
It’s one of the finest writing books I’ve ever read, a fitting companion to Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and a handful of other beautifully written, easily read, and thoroughly entertaining books about writing.
Seldom have I responded so positively and so quickly to a book as I did to this one. I fully agree with a reviewer who called Economical Writing, ‘perhaps the best brief book about writing ever written.’ (It’s only 112 pages.)
This is a passionately written book. It was written as a rally call for economists to pay more attention to clarity and conciseness in their writing. It had to be written because economists “typically undervalue the importance of clarity in their writing.”
In Chapter 2, ‘Writing is Thinking,’ the author debunks the idea that you can separate content from style. ‘It’s wrong. They are yolk and white in a scrambled egg.’ She continues in one of my favorite passages,
You do not learn the details of an argument until writing it in detail, and in writing the details you uncover flaws in the fundamentals. … Good writers in economics write self-critically and honestly, trying to say what they mean. They sometimes discover in the act of writing that what looked persuasive when floating vaguely in the mind looks foolish when moored to the page.
Economical Writing is neither an essay nor a rule book. It’s a dynamic, passionate, and informed conversation that reaffirms the importance of carefully chosen words and carefully constructed sentences, sentences that flow and paragraphs that persuade.
Economical Writing contains numerous examples and ideas, but, to me, the book’s glory is its affirmation of the idea that quality of writing matters–it’s more fun to read and more fun to write … there are few books that word and writing lovers can both learn from and enjoy so much.