Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by JM Williams

Years ago, when I read it for the first time, I found this book extremely useful in improving my writing style, and in diagnosing problems in my own and other people’s drafts. I plan to read it again.

The approach is quite different to other writing style books. There are few hard and fast rules, it is mainly centred on how to make your ideas clear and write text that is easy to read. It is full of  examples and good explanations of what works and what doesn’t.

There are two versions of the book: (links to

Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by JM Williams (also available in Helka)

Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams, and Gregory G. Colomb

I read the first one, it is older and cheaper and does not include exercises. The second, newer version includes exercises and is meant to be used as a textbook.

This is a good book to read even if you write well. It will help you understand why your texts are clear and good, and surely it will make revising your drafts easier. It will also help you when you have to comment on other people’s drafts. If you need to improve your own writing and you want to understand the logic behind guidelines rather than just follow rules, reading this book is a must.

Of creativity in art and science

I have just finished reading a very interesting book about landscape photography by Alain Briot. It has several chapters on the creative process in photography. The parallel with  creativity in science is remarkable and a lot of what he writes about is very useful to those doing scientific research.

One example: creative vs. critical modes. If one tries to be creative and critical at the same time one doesn’t get any original work done.

My interpretation: When writing a first draft just let your ideas flow, just write what crosses your mind without stopping to check their soundness. After your flow of  ideas dries out, switch to critical mode and be ruthless criticizing and editing what you have written. If new ideas are  born, switch back to creative mode. And so forth.

The same applies to designing new experiments, etc. First design your experiment without thinking too much about how easy or difficult it would be to put the design into practice. When you are finished with your first draft design, switch to critical mode. And so forth.

Even when working in groups these modes or roles should be kept separate, otherwise creativity gets stifled.

Even if you are not as much interested in photography as I am, this book could make for some interesting reading.

The book is Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style by Alain Briot. The link is to

Highly recommended.


Our research group is called SenPEP (Sensory photobiology and ecophysiology of plants).

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