Good Writing, According To Steven Pinker

Thanks to Intelligence Squared for the last dozen years of excellent debate, Oxford style, and in particular for this recent conversation that picks up where this last post, and the one before that, left off in terms of making us want to hear more from Steven Pinker:

STEVEN PINKER ON GOOD WRITING

with Ian McEwan

Steven Pinker is one of the world’s leading authorities on language, mind and human nature. A professor of psychology at Harvard, he is the bestselling author of eight books and regularly appears in lists of the world’s top 100 thinkers.

On September 25th he returned to the Intelligence Squared stage to discuss his latest publication The Sense of Style, a short and entertaining writing guide for the 21st century. Pinker argued that bad writing can’t be blamed on the internet, or on “the kids today”. Good writing has always been hard: a performance requiring pretence, empathy, and a drive for coherence. He answered questions such as: how can we overcome the “curse of knowledge”, the difficulty in imagining what it’s like not to know something we do? And how can we distinguish the myths and superstitions about language from helpful rules that enhance clarity and grace? Pinker showed how everyone can improve their mastery of writing and their appreciation of the art.

Professor Pinker was in conversation with Ian McEwan, one of Britain’s most acclaimed novelists, who has frequently explored the common ground between art and science.

Steven Pinker

World-renowned psychologist and cognitive scientist. He writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time and The New Republic, and is the author of eight books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought, and The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Ian McEwan

Novelist whose works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. The Times featured him on their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″.

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