Write right

Write, or don’t write, but write right, alright?


James Joyce put it perfectly when he said:

I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentence. You can see for yourself how many different ways they might be arranged.Frank Budgen, James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses”, 19-20.

Sometimes, writing can feel like way more of a headache than the research itself. If you think so, you’re not alone!

Even celebrated wordsmith James Joyce struggled to put his words into the right order.

Picture the scene: you have spent years researching your topic. It’s all there in your head. And your supervisor says those dreaded words: “it’s time to start writing”.

But it’s just not that easy! Downloading all you have in your head, into something a) somebody wants to read (or publish) and b) that highlights the hard analytical work you have done, is – there’s no other word for it – HARD.*

It comes out all wrong. Or you think it comes out right, but your supervisor hates it. Or you submit it for publication and it gets rejected, again, and you can’t see how to fix it.

It’s enough to make your brain hurt – like actually hurt.

Don’t despair. You’re not alone (all authors and academics have trodden the same painful path. You’re in good company), and we can help.

We understand because we’ve been there, and now that our own tears have dried and we’ve been readmitted to normal society, we’re happy to help minimise your writing woes.

*Actually there are lots of other words for ‘hard’, such as hellish, laborious, onerous, gargantuan, wearisome, unfathomable, and vexing, for a start. But the best friend of good writing is simplicity, so here are some top tips for fewer tears:

  • choose clear, simple words: ‘use’ not ‘utilise’; ‘clear’ rather than ‘clear-cut’; ‘understandable’ instead of ‘apprehensible’;
  • keep your sentences short and sweet. The shorter the sentence, the clearer the meaning. For example:

When the sentences are short then the meaning is easier to understand, and there will be fewer requirements for having to introduce complex grammatical structures.

– Editor: gosh that’s complicated!

This is better:

The shorter the sentence, the clearer the meaning. It makes the grammar easier too.

– Editor: Is the second example too simple? No! It’s easier to understand. Isn’t that the most important thing?