Utdrag som gör dig till en bättre författare, åtminstone akademiskt (Helen Sword, Stylish Academic Writing)

Jag tycker att jag skriver ganska bra på svenska. Åtminstone när jag verkligen lägger manken till.
Men på engelska är det värre. Eftersom jag ska skriva hela min masteruppsats på engelska har jag nyss läst Stylish Academic Writing av Helen Sword.
Helen Sword konstaterar att det egentligen inte är någon som tycker om det vanliga akademiska sättet att skriva på och hon ger råd om hur man blir en ”Stylish academic writer”.

Här nedan finns mina understrykningar i boken. Jag har inte strukit under saker med någon särskild systematik utan snarare varit framme med pennan när jag fått någon vag känsla av att det jag just då läste var betydelsefullt.
Sedan har jag länge funderat på hur en bok skulle göra sig om man bara återgav understrykningarna, om fragmenten blir tillräckligt talande för att kunna visa på helheten i alla fall.
Så jag testade det. Här är det:

Understrykningar ur Stylish Academic Writing av Helen Sword

Vad som kännetecknar ”stylish academic writers”:
– interesting, eye-cathcing titles and subtitles;
– first-person anecdotes or asides that humanize the author and give the text an individual flavor;
– catchy opening paragraphs that recount an interresting story, ask a challenging question, dissect a problem, or otherwise hook and hold the reader;
– concrete nouns (as opposed to nominalized abstractions such as ”nominalization” or ”abstraction”) and active, energetic verbs (as opposed to forms of beand bland standbys such as make, find or show);
– numerous examples, especially when explaining abstract concepts;
– visul illustrations beyond the usual Excel-generated pie charts and bar graphs (for example, photographs, manuscript facsimiles, drawings, diagrams, and reproductions);
– references to a broad range of academic, literary, and historical sources indicative of wide reading and collegial conversations both within and outside their own fields;
– humor, wether explicit or understated.

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Indeed, attention to audience is a hidden but essential ingredient of all stylish academic writing. One simple way to establish a bond with readers is to employ the second-person pronoun you, either directly or by means of imperative verbs, a mode patricularly favored by philosophers and mathematical scientists:[…].

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Academics identified by theirs peers as stylish writers[…]
three key principles that any writer can lern. First, they employ plenty of concrete nouns and vivid verbs, especially when discussing abstract concepts. Second, they keep nouns and verbs close together, so that readers can easily identify ”who’s kicking whom.” Third, they avoid wighting down their sentences wit extraneous words and phrases or ”clutter”.

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Concrete Language is arguably the single most valuable tool in the stylish writers toolbox.

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Angående titlar: Among the many decisions faced by authors composing an academic title, the most basic choice is wether to engagethe reader, informthe reader, or do both at once.

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As James Hartley and other scholars have noted, the simplest way to gennerate an ”engaging andinformative” title is to join together two disparate phrases (one catchy, the other descriptive) using a colon, semicolon or questionmark. Literary scholars are particulary fond of the ”engaging:informative” technique:

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Greenblatt notes that he used to open all his academic essays with a historical anecdote attached to a date, for example: ”In September 1580, as he passed through a small French town on his way to Switzerland and Italy, Montaigne was told an unusual story that he duly recorded in his travel journal.” Eventually, however, the formula became ”a bit too familiar in my writing, so I decided to stop.” Now greenblatt favors personal anecdotes instead.

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Every research project is made up of stories – the researcher’s story, the research story, the stories of individual subjects and participants, the backstory – each of wich contains various plot twists of its own. For stylish academic writers, then, the fundamental question to ask is not: ”Do I have a story to tell?” but ”Wichstory or stories do I want to tell, and how can I tell them most effectively?”

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Novelist E. M. Forster famously described a storyas ”a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence,” whereas a plot”is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality”; thus, according to Forster, ”The king died and then the Queen died” is a story whereas ”The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. A story tells you what happened; a plot tells you why.

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”Whose point of view am I reallyrepresenting here?” can help us keep our bias in check. Other, related questions – ”Whose point of view do I Wantto represent?” ”What other points of view am I supressing or neglecting?” – remind us that our own research stories will be enriched rather than weakened by the inclusion of dissenting voices.

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The trick is to decide wich part of the story you want to toss your readers into first, and then guide them forward from there.

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”Show, don’t tell” is the mantra of the novelist, dramatist, and poet. Creative writers learn to convey key emotional information by means of physical details […] ”Show and tell”, in contrast, is the mantra of the stylish academic writer, who illuminates abstract ideas by grounding theory in practice and by anchoring abstract concepts in the real world.

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As neuropsychologist Allan Paivio and others have documented, words and images are precessed by the brain along entirely separate pathways; unsurprisingly, readers understand new concepts more clearly and recall them more readily when they are presented both verbally and visually rather than just one way or the other. The most effective illustrations, by and large, are those that complement rather than duplicate the text:

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At the sentence lever, a single concrete verg – sweep, illuminate, forge – helps lift a phrase into the realm of lived experiance. Metaphors and analogies produce a similar effect, but more explicitly and on a more expansive scale. Anecdotes, case studies, and scenarios add narrative energy and human interest. Visual illustrations activate the eyes as well as the mind. Each of these techniques relies on a breathtakingly simple formula: Abstract concepts become more memorable and accessible the moment we ground them in the material world, the world that our readers can see and touch.

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[…]however, that, discursive notes are best avoided even in scholary prose intended for specialist readers. Laurel Richardson lauds discursive notes as ” a place for secondary arguments, novel conjectures, and related ideas”; Robert J. Connors calls them the ”alleys, closes and mews” where authors abandon the ”high street of the text” to pursue subversive arguments and analysis. These divergent opinions serve as a salient reminder that stylishness remains, in the end, a matter of personal taste: one reader’s poison may turn out to be another’s cup of tea.

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Tony Grafton observes that footnotes ”flourished most brightly in the eighteenth century, when they served to comment ironically on the narrative in the text as well as to support its veracity.”

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At their worst, they [Referenser till annan litteratur i texten] offer a potential platform for academic hubris, encouraging rampant name-dropping, self-promotion, and other forms of intellectual self-indulgence. At their best, however, citation conventions promote academic humility and generosity; they remind researchers to guard against plagiarism, to acknowledge their intellectual debts, and to affirm the contribution of their peers.

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”Express complex ideas clearly” Some might embellish the point, noting that stylish academic writers express complex ideas clearly and succinctly, clearly and elegantly, clearly and engagingly, or clearly and persuasively. Others will propose variations, stating that sylish academic writers express complex ideas in language that aids the reader’s understanding or challenges the reader’s understanding or extends the readers understanding. Central to all these definitions, despite their differing nuances, is the elusive art of abstraction; that is, the stylish academic writer’s ablility to paint a big picture on a small canvas, sketching the contours of an intricate argument in just a few broad strokes.

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[Om ett väl skrivet referat:] Nouns and verbs sit close together so we know exactly who is doing what:[…]

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Stylish academic writers often offer an elevator statement of sorts at the start of their scholary books, or articles, as a mean of engaging their reader’s attention and inspiring them to continue reading: […] Note that each of these opening statements describes not only the book’s subject but its argument, not only its whatnut its why.

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”Do not talk down. Try to inspire everybody with the poetry of science and make your explanations as easy as honesty allows, but at the same time do not neglect the difficult. Put extra effort into explaining to those readers prepared to put matching effort into understanding”

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Nonetheless, this chapter investigates that elusive je ne sais quoi of stylish writing: the cluster of special qualities that make certain writers stand out from the crowd. These include passion, commitment, pleasure, playfulness, humor, elegance, lyricism, originality, imagination, creativity, and ”undisciplined thinking” – attributes that are easy enough to recognice (perhaps because they occur so rarely in academic writing) but difficult to define or emulate.

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