Notes

A Cause of Bad Writing: “Difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know”

Glenn Leibowitz, “The Single Reason Why People Can’t Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist,” Inc.

For Pinker, the root cause of so much bad writing is what he calls “the Curse of Knowledge,” which he defines as, “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.” …

“A considerate writer will… cultivate the habit of adding a few words of explanation to common technical terms…”

“Readers will also thank a writer for the copious use of ‘for example,’ ‘as in,’ and ‘such as,’ because an explanation without an example is little better than no explanation at all.” …

Before you commit your writing to print — or to the internet —  take a few moments to make sure that what you write is clear and understandable by as many of your intended readers as possible.

Quoting Stephen Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

There are other causes of bad writing, surely, besides “the curse of knowledge.” The author also puts a nice spin on jargon, which doesn’t always aid communication. It’s still good advice. —C.M.H.