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The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  299 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Eric Hayot teaches graduate students and faculty in literary and cultural studies how to think and write like a professional scholar. From granular concerns, such as sentence structure and grammar, to big-picture issues, such as adhering to genre patterns for successful research and publishing and developing productive and rewarding writing habits, Hayot helps ambitious st ...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Columbia University Press (first published July 15th 2014)
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May 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
Several friends and colleagues recommended this book to me, so I was surprised by how little I enjoyed it. Part of the problem has to do with the kind of writing Hayot advocates—which is the echt academic genre of cultural theory. Few of his examples of strong prose strike me as compelling. (There's even an odd moment when Frederic Jameson is held up as an avatar of style.)

But his advice about writing is also often troubling. For instance, Hayot takes the valid insight that the interest of criti
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm teaching this book in my introduction to Graduate Studies book and its emphasis on some of the toughest structural and stylistic challenges of scholarly writing is offset with its lightness of touch, Hayot's wit and frankness. He begins the book with generative writing strategies--reminiscent of Professors as Writers or How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing, and his emphasis on habit-building was generous and practical. I also particularly liked his articulatio ...more
Derek Frasure
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book for graduate students or professionals in the humanities. There are a couple things readers will inevitably disagree with, as much of this is subjective. Hayot makes strong cases for all his strategies. I found this book very clarifying and it helped me psychologically move past a stuck place in my dissertation writing.
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for work.

Solid and analytical. (Longer review to follow?)
Kelly W.
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-books
I bought this book when I began writing my dissertation, and it was an incredibly important resource for learning how to craft an academic text that was, frankly, very intimidating. There wasn’t a lot of institutional instruction on how to write at the graduate level at my school, so Hayot’s book came in handy when trying to find my way as a writer in the humanities. I especially found the chapter on “the uneven U” to be helpful, as my biggest problem as a younger student was crafting paragraphs ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is quite illuminating to a new grad student like me. I love the way Hayot describes some things, such as showing only the tip of your ice burg, or avoid giving your reader all of your background info and research. Using that advice really helped me decide what was important and what wasn't important in my papers for class.

I still struggle with the uneven U, because I can totally tell a 5 from a 1, but the middle numbers sort of jumble together for me, no matter how many times I reread
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Hayot means well, but this book left a bad taste in my mouth. There were some helpful comments, like when he says that "the work you do in your first years after starting graduate school... [will] determine, in almost every case, the first decade or so of your life as a publishing scholar" (119). His ideas on writing as process were also very useful. But I found his comments on style, which occupy roughly 2/3 of the book, commonsensical and even trite oftentimes. I think he's a mediocre stylist ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I wanted more examples or an extended discussion, other times I found the exames and commentary to be too lengthy, but on the whole, it was helpful, particularly the section on the uneven-U structure.
Although I get that the book has some idiosyncrasies, I was very happy to come across it toward the end of my graduate career. I wish I had found it earlier. Unlike some of the other (very useful) academic writing books that are focused on other parts of writing (studies about productivity in How to Write a Lot, a specific process for being productive in Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks), this one was the most encouraging for me personally. I AM the person who worries about the dishes wh ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Full disclosure: I adore books about writing. I don't find Hayot's minute analysis of the writing process here to be helpful, though. Much of his advice seems to consist of the kinds of strategies that one develops naturally as one reads and writes more. Does breaking everything down really help understand what makes good writing good? In some cases, yes; but in this case, I don't think so. Hayot's many examples can also be difficult to follow, being lifted from knotty texts, and end up amountin ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I started graduate school and began to hand in writing, for the first time in my life, I received a fair amount of criticism, but much of it without any real suggestions for how to improve my writing to suit the work I was now doing. It seemed like academic writing was just something I was expected to know how to do, without anyone telling me--or at least that I would figure it out.

So when I saw this come up on Amazon, I picked it up for my Kindle and planned to read it, hoping that it woul
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Scholars should look at this book as an example to position themselves toward the rest of the world. There are suggestions and readings on the craft of writing that I do not fully understand or necessarily agree with. Yet that does not prevent me from gaining support, guidance, and more importantly a sense of academic collectivity from Eric Hayot's writing. ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for one of my classes and it was fine. I'm not mad that I read it, but I'm not really happy that I read it either. I did learn a bit about how to better structure my writing, but I'm not really a fan of writing theory in itself. ...more
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I mean the first chapter was waste of time to me. Yes, it’s important to know how to build its own habit, but I was hopping to get more writing info. Also his humor was kinda too sarcastic which wasn’t my type.
Marnie Cannon
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Encouraging read about the ins and outs of writing and the writing process as a PhD student. Definitely something to keep and come back to in different moments of life.
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this book comforted me so much even though I am terrified of academia
Zoe Phillips
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer DuBose
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nice refresher - I haven’t been in academia since 2013, so this was a nice reminder for how to think and write and create compelling arguments at the graduate level.
Genevieve Brassard
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very helpful and practical and motivational, all things I need to fight my procrastinating tendencies...
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very useful. Especially for post-graduate students.
Carol Tilley
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: scholarship, writing
Roy Kenagy
Feb 17, 2021 marked it as to-read
Shelves: read0

Jonathan Hiskes
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This how-to on scholarly writing is quite interestingly for non-scholarly writing.
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
As a PhD student, I really appreciate the advices given in this book, especially the one about writing every day. Though I have to say, pursuing my academic career while tending to my new-born child have been quite a difficult situation, and I haven't really followed that advice very well. I almost got the grudge on why Hayot make it sound so easy.
The discussions on different aspects in writing are also helpful, to various degrees. I like the style of this book, and enjoyed it very much.
Beth Stratton
Dec 20, 2017 added it
Shelves: academia

This book really resonated with me when I was in my final semester of MA trying to revise a journal article I was working on. It is full of tips and tricks, but there are a few chapters on how exactly to look at a paragraph in the grand scheme of your argument and it was just brilliant. Definitely pick this up for some great writing techniques.
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent guide to writing in the Humanities for publication. I really wish I had read this my first year of graduate school!
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Life changing
Dec 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Often idiosyncratic, often useful: how much milage you get from this book, I think, is going to vary by person. Even so, I would say that this writing guide is definitely worth checking out.
Mills College Library
808.06637 H4249 2014
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ctl
Some waxing poetic here and there but incredibly useful for publishing and general academic writing (in the humanities)
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Eric Hayot is professor of comparative literature and Asian studies at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Elements of Academic Style (Columbia, 2014), On Literary Worlds (2012), and The Hypothetical Mandarin (2009).

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
60 likes · 9 comments
“Active writing should not involve saying things you already understand and know, but instead let you think new things.” 2 likes
“You truly engage readers in the introduction when you convince them that it’s worth their time to keep reading, which means making a variety of credible promises (implicit and explicit) about both the value of the problem you will solve (usually explicit: “We have an inadequate or limited theory of early modern sexuality”), your professional credibility for addressing that problem (both explicit and implicit: you show the reader that you understand and know the field in which the problem takes place), and, ideally, by writing sentences or laying out ideas in ways that are rhetorically, rhythmically, or lexically appealing (always implicit). By having, in other words, some kind of style.” 1 likes
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