Nigel Warburton
Use your words

Nigel Warburton: Five key tips for thinking and writing clearly

Nigel Warburton interviewed by Stephen Law for the Cambridge Journals Blog on the importance of clarity in philosophy:

What would be your five key tips for thinking and writing clearly?

  1. Care about being understood.
  2. Read George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946). It has excellent practical advice about writing to be understood.
  3. Use examples. These can be highly imaginative and creative. This will force you to think through what you mean by generalisations and will also help your readers to understand what you mean. If you want your writing to be impressively obscure, don’t descend from abstraction and use as much jargon as you can.
  4. Know what your conclusion is, how your reasons and examples support it and your response to obvious counterarguments and counterexamples. If you don’t know that, how can you expect your readers to work out what you are saying?
  5. Don’t bullshit. Most people know when they are doing it. If you don’t, you are probably in the wrong subject.

Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds host one of my favourite podcasts, Philosophy Bites, which I love precisely because they expertly bring great clarity to whichever topic happens to be under discussion.

“If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself”
John Searle

Previously on Rapid Notes:

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