Members in the Media
From: Scientific American

Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style

Scientific American:

Writing guides tend to be pretty unsatisfying. They offer plenty of concrete rules, but why, a reader might ask, should the rules be followed? The answer is usually “because” — as in, “because I say so.” This, of course, is where humanity found itself before the advent of the scientific method: the mystics spoke, and everyone had to decide for themselves whom to believe. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker takes a different approach, one that is both more ambitious and more modest. In his new book, “The Sense of Style,” he draws on research, and particularly his deep knowledge of linguistics, to give his writing principles a scientific basis. Readers can thus have some assurance that Pinker’s advice is good, and, knowing the reasons why, they will be more likely to know when a rule should be broken. Yet he does not push this method beyond its natural limits. Scientists, after all, still know relatively little about the ways dark squiggles communicate ideas. Instead, he shows readers how to take apart a piece of fine writing to see what makes it tick. He does this with affection and enthusiasm. In Pinker’s hands, we do not feel ordered around capriciously, but truly guided by an inspiring teacher. He was interviewed by Gareth Cook, the editor of Mind Matters.

Read the whole story: Scientific American

More of our Members in the Media >

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.