Notes: The Craft of Writing Effectively

I’ve recently started writing notes when listening to audiobooks or watching educational videos. I’ve found that when consuming content in a non-written form (e.g. books or magazines), keeping notes helps distill the information, especially when discussing complex ideas and topics.

I was recently watching this fascinating lecture from Larry McEnerney at the University of Chicago, and I thought I would share my notes:

  • Writing effectively requires focusing on readers’ needs rather than adhering to rigid rules.
  • Expert writers often struggle with writing because they are too close to their subject matter.
  • The traditional view of writing as a basic skill learned early in life is challenged by the ongoing need for writing development among professionals.
  • Writing serves as a tool for thinking, especially at high levels of complexity.
  • Understanding the audience is crucial for successful writing, particularly in academic and professional contexts.
  • The value of writing is determined by its usefulness to the reader, not by its clarity or organization alone.
  • Academic writing should challenge existing knowledge and contribute to scholarly conversations.
  • Effective writing in academia often involves identifying and addressing problems recognized by a specific community of readers.
  • The concept of “gap” in literature reviews can be less effective than directly addressing errors or inconsistencies in existing knowledge.
  • Writing is not about conveying personal ideas but about changing the reader’s ideas or understanding of a topic.
  • The process of writing involves generating text that helps the writer think, but the final product must be oriented towards the reader’s perspective.
  • Academic and professional writing is moving towards a model where knowledge is not stored in individual heads but is shared and contested in communal spaces.
  • Literature reviews should not just provide background information but should also establish the significance and context of the research within existing scholarly debates.
  • The notion that writing can preserve ideas or the writer’s identity indefinitely is challenged by the transient nature of academic discourse.
  • “You’re not here to do original work, you’re here to do valuable work.”

Go watch the entire lecture below!

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