Unfortunately, there are no many practical up-to-date books for academic writers. The good news is that among these rare findings, you can easily discover real gems. Just like The Writer’s Diet by Helen Sword. This book was released in 2016 and immediately made a difference in the writing area and brought the author huge success. Let’s see how useful the book might be for you.
Helen Sword is an award-winning professor, director of the Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education at the University of Auckland. Besides, she’s well-known lecturer - her track record includes various conferences in 17 countries and 60 universities all over the globe.
The book stems from a handout “Editing your Prose”, which Helen decided to rename in order to make engage her students and make them read it. The trick worked and soon the handout grew into a whole book “The writer’s diet”, which now has 70 000 readers per year.
In her book, Helen Sword decided to step back from the traditional “write every day” tricks and interviewed many successful academic writers including more than 1000 Ph.D. students to find out their success formula. The finding was staggering: turns out there is no success formula. There is no a strategy that fits all, each writer chooses an approach that works better for him or her.
The idea of the whole book is about how to make your text better. Helen emphasizes that it’s important to adapt the writing to your audience and your needs and to increase readability of the scientific texts.
Fulfill the writing with relevant words. Your goal is to put the right word in the right place and eliminate any misunderstanding. For instance, exclude lazy verbs and limit your use of “be” verbs.
Add more active verbs to your writing for such purposes: they support a sense of the goal, lay down powerful sentences and require accuracy.
Make preposition-free texts.
Avoid jargon and abstractions.
Highlight your personal bad writing habits that prevent your success.
Write “it” and “this” only if it’s easy to figure out to what noun these words relate.
Try to use “it, this, that” no more than three times in a paragraph.
Pay attention to the sweeping generalizations that start with ‘there’.
Apply adverbs and adjectives only if they enter new information into the text.
Stop using more than 3 prepositional phrases in a row.
Diversify your prepositions.
Employ abstract ideas in concrete pictures and language means.
Phrase your title as a question.
Read a few paragraphs aloud to simplify the text.
Finally, work on the details to ensure clarity of your message.
As you can see, Helen Sword teaches readers to improve the quality of the texts by developing better word choice and adjusting sentences. You can buy this book anywhere you want because there are so many websites that offer it with a price $5.8-$13.1.
Keep in mind that you may learn useful writing approaches not only by the book but also with the free online test, which helps to evaluate the quality of the entire text and pay attention to the weak areas. The test is built around grammar categories: nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs, is/this/that/there. The evaluation shows whether this category is fit or flabby. After the quick assessment, you’ll see such weak words or constructions in the text to edit it accordingly. A useful tool from the author of a useful book.
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