Sunday, October 10, 2004

Great Writers

How to be a great writer? Don't write like Veblen. Cafe Hayek has a great post on what Mencken thought of Veblen's tedious writing. In Mencken's words:

[It is] a cent’s worth of information wrapped in a bale of polysyllables.... It was as if the practice of that incredibly obscure and malodorous style were a relentless disease, a sort of progressive intellectual diabetes, a leprosy of the horse sense. Words were flung upon words until all recollection that there must be a meaning in them, a ground and excuse for them, were lost. One wandered in a labyrinth of nouns, adjectives, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and participles, most of them swollen and nearly all of them unable to walk. It was, and is, impossible to imagine worse English, within the limits of intelligible grammar. It was clumsy, affected, opaque, bombastic, windy, empty. It was without grace or distinction and it was often without the most elementary order.... Worse, there was nothing at the bottom of all this strident wind-music – the ideas it was designed to set forth were, in the overwhelming main, poor ideas, and often they were ideas that were almost idiotic. The concepts underlying, say, “The Theory of the Leisure Class” were simply Socialism and well water.

Orwell has a genius essay on how to recognizing crappy academic writing, and more importantly how to avoid it. In his collection:

Orwell, G. (1956). The Orwell reader; fiction, essays, and reportage ([1st ed.). New York,: Harcourt.

Of course, let us not forget our discipline's best writer, my hero Dierdre McCloskey.

Keywords: writing, ECO120, ECO301, ECO305

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