Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out. At least one professor who loves style manuals has examined why teachers often break the rules they so stringently espouse, including the “no passive voice” rule. Also: Deciding what you’re suited to write about and looking back at Ernest Hemingway’s life.
The science of style: Last week, I included Harvard University psychology Professor Steven Pinker’s take on how bad writing is often brought on by knowing a subject too well. Pinker has a new book coming out soon on writing style, and how science tells us something about what makes writing good or bad. In an excerpt from the book, Pinker discusses his love for the classic style manuals (“The Elements of Style,” “Politics and the English Language”) and why many of them are good because, not in spite of, breaking some of the rules they aim to teach. Some rules, such as avoiding passive voice, have been scientifically proven to be bad advice, he writes: