Advice from the Masters: Christie Henry

Sep 6, 2017 | Better Writing

Rachel Toor writes a monthly column about writing for The Chronicle Of Higher Education. “Scholars Talk Writing” is a regular feature of her column, where she interviews scholars about how they write. If you’re like many businesspeople I’ve met, you’re thinking, “This doesn’t interest me at all. Academics are such horrible writers!” Bear with me.

There are academics who are horrid writers, but there are also academics like Bob Sutton who write superbly. There are also businesspeople who write poorly and those who write well. I chose the bit of advice you’ll find below because it’s applicable to business writers as much as it is to scholars.

Rachel Toor’s September 4, 2017 column is “Scholars Talk Writing: Christie Henry.” Ms Henry is the director of Princeton University Press and someone who works with scholars who want to write books for a general readership. Here’s something for you to mull over.

“Most scientists I know are wonderful storytellers, but they are taught from early in their careers to edit out the story, to redact the personal. I have collaborated with scientists who have discovered fossils in the Arctic, have worn zebra costumes in the Serengeti, have encountered the first and last of species the world over. These stories are as necessary as they are illuminating and enrapturing.”

Many business writers have the same issue. Over their careers they’ve been told that business isn’t personal and so personal stories don’t have a place in business books. To which I say, “Rubbish!” The best business books, like the best scholarly books for a general audience are riddled with stories. That’s the way human beings communicate best.

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts

If you want even more writing advice from writers, check out Jon Winokur’s blog, “AdvicetoWriters.”

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