Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh!t

Although far removed from earthquake engineering and academic writing, we can learn a lot from writers of advertising and fiction.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that nobody wants to read your shit. Steven Pressfield wrote an entire book about it, but I’m pretty sure the phrase was around long before the book.

Positive Definite is not a referrer. No need to feel slimy if you click the link.

I mean, would you want to read any of these papers on structural engineering? Based on the titles, which are obviously fake but dangerously accurate, I would hate to read any further. Well done, Mohsen!

So, why does Pressfield say nobody wants to read your shit? Because everyone is busy and you’re asking them to give up their most valuable resource–time–in order to read your work. Nine times out of ten, it’s a losing proposition for the reader.

Sorry, LinkedIn. Sorry, Twitter. It’s true.

I get that you have to write papers to complete your Ph.D., to get a job, to get tenure, and to get promoted. You have to let future letter writers, citers, and funding agencies know about those papers too. It’s part of the game.

But once you realize that no one wants to read your shit, you can start to write better shit.

How do you do that? To paraphrase Pressfield, you reduce your writing to its simplest form and make the writing informative and interesting. You will then develop empathy for your readers. You will put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if your writing gives readers enough information to follow along and if that information is interesting.

If your writing does not accomplish these goals, nobody will read your shit.

4 thoughts on “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh!t

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