Require my book for your students, and I’ll Skype into your class

Dear Professor: If you’re teaching writing in 2017, consider requiring Writing Without Bullshit as a textbook. Here’s why (plus a special offer to push you over the edge): In 2017, your students ought to have a writing book that acknowledges that writing must be different for those who read on screens. It uses modern real-world examples. It addresses … Continued

Difficult questions about “A message from MIT’s faculty”

Some MIT faculty, led by Roger Levy and Nancy Kanwisher, posted a short message regarding what they believe in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. More than 400 faculty have now signed it. As an MIT alumnus, I read this statement and wondered about the platitudes it contains: why make this statement, and why ask faculty to … Continued

Learning, teaching, and knowing

When you learn things, you know them. Then, if you try to teach someone else, you realize you don’t know them, and you learn them at a deeper level. I recently tried to teach my teenager to parallel park. I’ve been successfully parallel parking for many decades, of course, but we needed to practice together to … Continued

Why students shouldn’t write on a smartphone

If you believe the Boston Globe or the Wall Street Journal, students are increasingly writing papers on their phones. While there are some benefits, teachers ought to discourage it, since it interferes with reflection and promotes a pernicious first-draft writing habit. The articles on this topic are anecdotal Like most trend pieces, both of these articles are … Continued

Seeking professors who teach writing without bullshit

I want to change the way the next generation writes. If you teach them, I’d like to help you. See if this description fits you: You teach writing. That could be English composition, marketing communications, public relations, technical writing, journalism, or any other non-fiction writing class. You are teaching a class in Fall of 2016. … Continued

The true power of links: brief, pointed, powerful writing

We still write as if people will read our work in print, but they don’t — they read on glass screens. As a result, you should include links in everything you write, from emails to reports. It will make your writing shorter and more powerful. The versatility of links As a blogger, I use links all the … Continued

Hal Varian’s timeless insights on thinking

In December of 1994, economist Hal Varian, who is currently Google’s chief economist, wrote a paper called “How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time.” Ignore the subject matter. It should have been called “How to think clearly.” His advice hasn’t lost relevance in the 21-plus years since he wrote it. (Thanks to Cory Doctorow at … Continued

The 6 benefits of thinking like a mathematician

When I was young, I was certain I would be a mathematician. I still think like one. You should, too — and you don’t have to learn math to do it. A little background: I was an outstanding math student in high school and college, won an NSF Fellowship, and entered the math Ph.D. program at … Continued