58. Writing and understanding
April 15, 2009 § Leave a comment
I have just been reading a few economics texts at an advanced level and what strikes me is that most sentences I read are not necessary to, do not advance, the argument being made. Why are they there? The economics of publishing has made the “article” and the “book”, the standards. A 70 page book or one page article don’t make it into that system.
Because of this, writers have assumed that “length” is an important variable in the goal of writing, and yield to filler writing to meet the goal.
The result is that we waste a lot of time coming up to speed on important issues.
If the standard were reader efficiency in grasping the argument (or impression, for these too are valuable), the writing would look very different. The point is, our approach to writing leads to delayed and incomplete understanding, inefficiently, and un-aesthetically achieved.