Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Reader's Brain by Yellowlees Douglas

I requested this book mainly because it held the promise of being able to make my writing better. While I won't have many opportunities to write academic papers in English (for now),  there's always the chance I'll need it for my future job.

Basically, The Reader's Brain is supposed to teach you how to use the 5Cs - clarity, continuity, coherence, concision, and cadence, to write more effectively. The book contains a fair amount of research about how reading works, and provides lots of examples. There'll be an example one (normally the horrible writing), and then an example two, so the reader can see what the author means. At the end of the book is a quick grammar guide.

I admit, I skimmed the parts about reading. I'm not sure why, since that was why I got the book, but it turned out that the parts that interested me the most were probably the expert tips, since they were short and basically summarisations of what the author just said, written in a "how to apply it to writing" format.

What I learnt from the book can be summed up as: use active voice, and put what you want people to remember in the front. And make sure you vary your sentence lengths and structure. So, KISS with an addition of "mix it up now and then".

Oh, and how to identify passive voice. Basically, if you can insert the phrase "by zombies" after the verb and the sentence still makes sense, it's passive voice. So, if I'm applying this right,

"After consuming penicillin, Tim was was healed by zombies" - passive.
"The penicillin healed Tim by zombies" - active voice.

All in all, this book is a clearly written guide on how to improve your non-fiction writing. I like that lots of example were raised, and it seems be be backed up by science. It is, however, not a grammar book, despite the brief guide at the end, so think of this as for the middle-to-advanced writer.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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