DFW on Writing

I really appreciated this post by Maria Popova reminding us of David Foster Wallace's words on writing, and especially the bit about transitions, punctuation, and ease of reading.

From DFW: 

Reading is a very strange thing. We get talked to about it and talk explicitly about it in first grade and second grade and third grade, and then it all devolves into interpretation. But if you think about what’s going on when you read, you’re processing information at an incredible rate.

One measure of how good the writing is is how little effort it requires for the reader to track what’s going on. For example, I am not an absolute believer in standard punctuation at all times, but one thing that’s often a big shock to my students is that punctuation isn’t merely a matter of pacing or how you would read something out loud. These marks are, in fact, cues to the reader for how very quickly to organize the various phrases and clauses of the sentence so the sentence as a whole makes sense.


The point where that amount—the amount of time that you’re spending on a sentence, the amount of effort—becomes conscious, when you are conscious that this is hard, is the time when college students’ papers begin getting marked down by the prof.

Students take note. Profs who would be writers, as well, of course.