kunc-header-1440x90.png
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jargon To Jabberwocky: 3 Books On Writing Well

Colored pencils
iStockphoto.com

I'm an English professor, and I spent the first 15 years of my career trying to write like one. You might be surprised by what that's like. We don't emulate the fiction writers we most admire. We too rarely practice what we preach to our composition students — namely that good writing is simple and direct. In fact, we're notorious for maze-y sentences and ugly jargon. The point seems less to attract readers with clear prose than to smack them over the head with a sign that says, "Aren't I smart?"

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to start writing for general readers, not just my fellow Ph.D.s. To do so, I knew I needed to unlearn my worst academic habits while studying the best techniques of great writers. Here are three fun-to-read books that helped my writing.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Gottschall
Jonathan Gottschall
Jonathan Gottschall
Jonathan Gottschall
Related Content
  • Who hasn't dreamed about taking off on a motorcycle, with nothing but the open road ahead? Commentator Jonathan Bastian did just that, and recommends three reads that helped him along the way.
  • Impostors can be scheming, even villainous, but their stories tempt us with an attractive possibility — the chance to wear a mask. Writer David Anthony suggests three tales about nefarious characters that let us indulge in our fascination with the art of manipulating outward appearances.
  • The secret to a good fistfight isn't the perfect sucker punch — it's endurance. Victory belongs to the last one standing, says author Alan Heathcock. He suggests three books with characters who never say die as they fight tooth and nail to outlast every obstacle in their way.