The Craft of Effective Writing Summary - Larry McEnerney - Aure's Notes (2023)

The Craft of Effective Writing Summary - Larry McEnerney - Aure's Notes (1)

SummaryReading time: 6 minutes

Video length: 2 hours

Walk away

  • Writing is a thought process. It is written to think, not the other way around.
  • Your writing will be read when it teaches something, that is, when it moves a conversation forward.
  • Real writing is valuable, persuasive, clear, and organized.

EraThe craft of effective writingtalk about

Larry McEnerney is (was?)Head of writing programat the University of Chicago.

He was known in academia for having a much more "reader-focused" view of writing than his peers.

One of his courses was recorded and posted on YouTube, where it has been viewed millions of times, for good reason.

You can watch the video at the end of the summary.


Video Summary: The Craft of Effective Writing

A journalist writes to explain something after thinking.

an expert writesthinkabout what he writes.

Writing is a thought process.

This type of writing is the highest level you can write at.

People write and think differently.

When a writer writes somethingit will clash with the thought process of your readersbecause both are different.

Good writing is writing that accommodates the thought processes of the reader.

When people read something that doesn't fit their thought patterns, they slow down, don't understand, then get angry, then stop reading.

The writing must be:

  • Clear
  • Organized
  • Convincing
  • But mainlyThe writing must be valuable.

Your writing should change people's lives.If not, they won't read it.

When people read something, it's to find value in it.

Writing is not about the author wondering if his ideas have value.Writing is about what readers find valuable.

The main thing to focus on when writing is the readers.

-> Is what you write valuable to readers? Always ask yourself that.

Suppose you are writing an article and someone tells you that what you wrote is not clear or important.

You're right? Yeah.

Don't defend your writing.

If the public doesn't think the newspaper is important,means it doesn't matter.

In schools, students write homework explaining what they have understood.

"What the students understood" is not worth reading because nobody cares -> teachers get paid to read these assignments.

-> Students are trained to show teachers the inside of their minds -> Nobody cares what's in your head in the real world.

You never want to explain why your work is important. It has to be obvious.

Do you think writing conveys your ideas? It is not.

Change your reader's ideas.

Nobody cares what ideas you have.

The important thing is that you write "knowledge" and you can't decide what "knowledge" is.

Other people do.So the purpose of writing is to write for other people.

Each community has a code, which is a set of words that convey values. You must know these words if you hope to write valuable information for this community.

If you don't know your readers, you are highly unlikely to add value and persuade.The conviction depends on what you doubt.If you don't know that, you can't convince them.

You can't go to a community of scientists and say, "Hey, I want to add something to what you've done."

They will answer: "We don't care."

However, if you go and say, “What you've done is amazing, I've read it all, congratulations, it's all great. But there's one thing I'm not sure if it's right." ...then you'll have their attention, becauseno one wants to be wrong-> what you say has value for them.

You have to identify the people with power in the community and give them what they want.

Your writing should help a group of people better understand something they want to understand well.

The value of knowledge changes over time.

The knowledge of two hundred years ago does not have the same value today. It may or may not have been updated.

In any case, knowledge does not build on itself like a house. Advance in time.

The Craft of Effective Writing Summary - Larry McEnerney - Aure's Notes (2)

Video Summary: Writing Beyond Science

"Writing Beyond Academia" is another Larry McEnerney video. you can find itHere, or read the abstract.

Why is it difficult to write?

Why don't people write that?actual writing.

The actual writing is:

  • Valuable
  • Convincing
  • Clear
  • Organized

Lots of people give writing tips like "don't use slang", "don't use passive verbs".

This is text based advice, you don't want that kind of advice.

They want to knowwhy are you writingwhat you write and if it isvaluableO no.

No writing advice makes senseif you have not clarified who readsand what is the function of the text.

The Craft of Effective Writing Summary - Larry McEnerney - Aure's Notes (3)

You write and think at the same time. The function of the text you write, therefore, is to change the way readers think about the world.

Then writing becomes valuable.

The most difficult thing is not going from high school to university or from university to master's degree.

He goes from school to the outside world, because the outside world isjust about value. They don't teach you to add value in school. they teach youto expresswhat do you think.

The reason you writeshort sentences are goodis that it requires attention to ashorter period. When people on the subway read the NYT commentaries, they can't afford to focus on long sentences because the environment is full of distractions.

The function of the NYT commentary is to entertain. Not report.

However, you don't want to write only short sentences.

At the end of a sentence is what we call “accentuation”. Stress accentuates theimportance of information.

If you write a paragraph with 6 short sentences, say that there are 6 important pieces of information. If you write the same paragraph with 3 sentences, there are only 3 important (better) information.

-> it's a question of balance.

Rules to restrict the use of verbs, adverbs and passive sentences that do not begin with "because"they are wrong rules.It all depends on whether they can add value or not.

language is aRelationshipbetween people.

Which of these sentences ismanage:
"The dog chases the cat" or "The dog chases the cat".
Answer:depends on the reader.

When talking to cats, the first sentence is clearer. If you're talking to dogs, the second sentence is clearer.

Don't tell readers that what you wrote matters ->Ellaare they whodecide what.
The value of a work is not "this is what my work will be about" (2). It is "this is what my article will argue". (3)

"We will talk about democracy" VS "We will argue that democracy eventually collapses on its own."

They are different discussions.The plot is obviously much more interesting.because it could change the way people think about democracy.

In scientific writing, 95% of the work begins withlet readers know what question the author hasthat will be answered. (1)

1 leaves room for the reader. 2 leaves no room for the reader.The reader does not matter.

"Ideas" and "Concepts" areworthless words. You can't do anything with them. However, "tool" is a very valuable word because aThe tool has a purpose and a function.. You can do anything with tools.

Academic articles look their readers in the eye and say: “I know what you're thinking... and you're wrong“. When someone tells you that you are wrong, you have to listen: it is valuable.

To write to readers, you need to know what they value.

It's not your job to reveal what's going on in your head. It's supposed to change what's inside them.

You can also tell your readers, "I know what's valuable to you, and I'll give it to you." I know what you need and this text can deliver it. So you open withWhat do you need, not "that's what the text is about".

We appreciate reading about the bad stuff., which is why the newspapers... write about the bad things. People who are looking for entertainment are drowning in conflicts, tensions and problems.We found it entertaining.

Language is a social activity. So when it comes to language, you have to have other people in the spotlight. Not Yourself Language is not about revealing your ideas. It is about giving value to the person in front of you. It's about telling them what they want to hear.

From now on when you writeyou have to think about the reader. Don't start telling people what you think.Tell them what you think.How they get involved in things.

As a student, he spends twenty years writing material that he thought the reader (teacher) would trust.


They think you're wasting time, they think what you wroteuselessthem

It is your job to make them understand otherwise by writingsomething that is valuable to them.

Conciseness is not the number of words on the page. That is the time it takes the reader to process.If you write about topics that don't interest the reader, it will take longer to process.

The theme is the focus. The end of the sentence is the accent. Both are important.

When we finish the sentence, we put the emphasis back on the focus.
It is similar to going from A to B. B is what matters since it is where you want to go. But how you get there depends on A.

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