Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Writing for normal people

Normally, I write for weirdos. Other archaeologists, to be precise. We're an odd bunch, and I say that with utter respect and love. I adore reading academic archaeology, the more theoretical, the better. I love to attack an article, pull it to bits, figure it out and build it back together. I enjoy writing this way, too.

But currently I'm writing for the real world. For those who aren't totally obsessed with the dead, and who wouldn't dream of applying some bizarre social theory to a set of graves and coming up with an out-there-but-it-kinda-works interpretation.

I'm halfway through writing my second book (the first was my PhD, now available wherever good archaeological works are sold- so mostly on the internet then), which has an informal subtitle of "why you should give a damn about the Etruscans." Approaching the midpoint of the first draft, I've come to several conclusions about writing for a non-academic crowd, and I'd like to hear other thoughts.

1) Keep it snappy, sunshine. Endless clauses just annoy people. If you can't say it clear and concise, why are you saying it at all?

2) Don't get preachy. Nobody likes to read moralising tomes of self-improving blah. If you have an ethical point to make, do it straight.

3) Admit your own fallibility. Just because you're writing this book, doesn't mean you know everything. General readers can sniff out a self important phony as well as the academic crowd.

MOST IMPORTANTLY

4) Don't be afraid to have fun. It should be an enjoyable read, and so should be enjoyable to write. You can always edit out the bad jokes later, but I feel that a non fiction book for a general audience should be rollicking good fun while also making you think.

Any tips and pointers anyone? Thinking it through, I feel that these four points probably apply to good academic writing too. Especially the last one.

I'll stop skiving and get back to the grindstone now, before the baby wakes up.

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What do you think? I'd love to hear what's in your head.