Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How to write a short article

We have prepared a simple recipe to write a short article:
  • Step 1- Ask yourself a simple but important question:
    It is something cosmic that determines why you eat your Oreo the way you do?
  • Step 2- See what others have said about that important question:

    Psychologists, food writers and Oreo aficionados speculate whether the method used to eat one’s Oreo cookie can indicate personality
  • Step 3- Conduct some additional research by yourself -- but don't spend too much time on it:
    I decided to conduct an investigation using our [...] team to solve the puzzle
  • Step 4- Write down the results in a short article -- 1 or 2 pages should be enough
    Whether it’s nature or nurture, Christina shared her Oreos with us. And we all ate them the way we prefer. And that’s the way this cookie thinks an Oreo should crumble
You can also use the nice article Toops Scoops: Oreo nature or nurture? by Diane Putman as a guide

Your diamonds are not in faraway mountains or in distant seas; they are in your own back yard if you will but dig for them (Russell Conwell)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Say it simple!

In Politics and the English Language (1946), George Orwell provides six rules for writers:
  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print 
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do 
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out 
  • Never use the passive voice where you can use the active 
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous
He also suggests that a scrupulous writer should ask himself at least four questions in every sentence that he writes:
  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
For example, he presents well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all
Here it is in bad English:
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account