See the original posting on Boing Boing
In January on Twitter, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now, shared 13 tips for writing:
Reverse-engineer what you read. If it feels like good writing, what makes it good? If its awful, why?
Prose is a window onto the world. Let your readers see what you are seeing by using visual, concrete language.
Dont go meta. Minimize concepts about concepts, like approach, assumption, concept, condition, context, framework, issue, level, model, perspective, process, range, role, strategy, tendency, and variable.
Let verbs be verbs. Appear, not make an appearance.
Beware of the Curse of Knowledge: when you know something, its hard to imagine what its like not to know it. Minimize acronyms & technical terms. Use for example liberally. Show a draft around, & prepare to learn that whats obvious to you may not be obvious to anyone else.
Omit needless words (Will Strunk was right about this).
Avoid clichés like the plague (thanks, William Safire).
Old information at the beginning of the sentence, new information at the end.
Save the heaviest for last: a complex phrase should go at the end of the sentence.
Prose must cohere: readers must know how each sentence is related to the preceding one. If its not obvious, use that is, for example, in general, on the other hand, nevertheless, as a result, because, nonetheless, or despite.
Revise several times with the single goal of improving the prose.
Read it aloud.
Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. Consult a dictionary with usage notes, and a thesaurus. Read the rest