ERIC Number: ED261390
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1985-Mar
Reference Count: 0
A Pox on Pithy Prescriptions. CDC Technical Report No. 9.
Steinberg, Erwin R.
Intended for writing teachers, this paper shows how "pithy prescriptions" for writing, such as "use definite, specific, concrete language," can be misleading or wrong. To support this thesis, the paper examines a technical writing book advocating short sentences and finds that it has sentences averaging 27.8 words in one section and 30.18 in another. It then discusses the problems posed by short, precise sentences including the choppy style they produce, which is not always suited to the education level of the audience, and the fact that they cause the reader to move more slowly in order to establish the necessary relationships between ideas. The paper states that teachers can learn two lessons from the analysis: (1) stop recommending that people write short sentences (because"short sentences" means different things to different people and because good writing does not necessarily use short sentences), and (2) beware of pithy prescriptions (because the real situation may require a more complex explanation). (EL)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Carnegie-Mellon Univ., Pittsburgh, PA. Communications Design Center.