Sunday, May 07, 2006

Writing articles in English

If you write in English (this is probably the case if you are reading this page :-) ), you can definitely learn something from The Elements of Style. This small text by William Strunk, Jr. corrects many potential errors we can make when we write in English, especially if we are not native speakers (even if the book is not originally dedicated to foreign writers). But some adverse opinion also exists about this book.

Another very interesting small book about style is Simple & Direct by Jacques Barzun (published by Quill). Again, this book incites you to clarify your ideas in order to craft sentences with a clear meaning.

More on the grammar side, I would also recommend Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (Oxford University Press). It is really very easy to use thanks to a very intelligent organization. A small excerpt from the table of contents:
173 - each
174- each and every175 - each other and one another

If you mainly write scientific articles, you could benefit from Successful Scientific Writing by Matthews, Bowen and Mathews (Cambridge University Press). This book is dedicated to biological and medical sciences but the tips it contains can help for articles in any discipline (I am an economist and I have learned a lot of tricks from it, even if my writing remains quite awful in English :-)).

And if your mother tongue is French, just a single major tip: forget the passive voice, it terribly blurs the significance of sentences in English. Passive voice also gives rise to terribly cumbersome sentences very prone to errors...

And, if English is your third language (as in my case), I wish you good luck ;-)

Other interesting pages: