Give it up for Jim Pryor, NYU professor of philosophy, for championing clean, concise, and compelling writing.
He does this in on an old-school web page (think early 90s) on “What Does One Do in a Philosophy Paper?” that is spot on.
Here’s a clip:
In fact, you can profitably take this one step further and pretend that your reader is lazy, stupid, and mean.”
And he expands that advice:
- “He’s lazy in that he doesn’t want to figure out what your convoluted sentences are supposed to mean, and he doesn’t want to figure out what your argument is, if it’s not already obvious.
- “He’s stupid, so you have to explain everything you say to him in simple, bite-sized pieces.
- “And he’s mean, so he’s not going to read your paper charitably. (For example, if something you say admits of more than one interpretation, he’s going to assume you meant the less plausible thing.)”
Jim concludes, “If you understand the material you’re writing about, and if you aim your paper at such a reader, you’ll probably get an A.”
Translated into our world, you’ll probably gain a reader or two. Do it consistently and you’ll grow an audience.
You’ll find this discussion about the lazy, stupid, mean reader just before the half way mark.
But the whole page is worth a read. Just convert the page with a tool like Readability (otherwise you’ll get a headaches from squinting).
Image source: I’m Not Just Some Stupid Photo Title He Said