Paul Romer set out to reform writing at the World Bank. He lost his job.

Paul Romer ran research for the World Bank. He took aim the bank’s impenetrable writing style, known as “Bankspeak,” asking for shorter, more pointed reports. That cost him his management position. I’ll explain what he was right about, why it didn’t work, and what it really takes to fix a writing culture like this. Romer’s objections … Continued

Preparation is the key to a great research interview (Ask Dr. Wobs)

Preparation is the key to a successful research interview. Deliberate planning makes sure your time isn’t wasted — which is the concern expressed in today’s reader question. Dear Dr. Wobs: Good analysis requires research: analyzing data and interviewing people. I know how to make my research data sing. But how do I prepare for and conduct … Continued

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