Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sloppy writing reflects (and advertises) sloppy thinking

Over at MR, Tyler Cowen quotes John Cochrane on the Milton Friedman protest letter; is to me sadder still how atrociously written this letter is. These people devote their lives to writing on social issues, and teaching freshmen (including mine) how to think and write clearly. Yet it’s awful.

Milton would probably have said the same thing as he had said to Gary Becker;
"People often excuse bad writing by saying that they know what they mean, and simply have difficulty expressing it. That is nonsense. If you cannot state a preposition clearly and unambiguously, you do not understand it.I took that lesson to heart. I learned that trying to write something clearly and unambiguously was the best way to find errors and omissions in my reasoning and clarify my own thought.

It was in a letter to Gary Becker in May 1955, when I was in Britain, referring to a draft of his thesis that he had sent to me: Nine times out of ten, I wrote after criticizing his exposition, sloppy writing reflects (and advertises) sloppy thinking.

Milton Friedman on Iraq War
Anecdotes about Milton Friedman

"I Do Not Believe the State Has Any Right to Tell Me What to Put In My Head"

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