On becoming a better writer

Each of you surely has writing strengths. This semester is an opportunity to become a better writer, a process that will continue for the rest of your active lives. All good writers, whether a second grader or Shakespeare, aspire to be better. You should too.

What makes good writing? We’ll do our best to answer this question, knowing that the search for an answer – even answers – can yield quicksilver. We can say that the best writing is clear, analytical, and has a sense of style. The very best writing, on any topic, is a joy to read.

This is one of my favorite passages on writing (do you know it?):

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. (William Strunk, Elements of Style)

We’ll share examples of great writing throughout the semester. These examples will include, I am sure, your writing.

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