Writing style

Discussions about writing style are highly subjective, subject to fashion and change over time. I am in favor of a simple and functional writing style, inspired by the way economists and journalists like to write. While there are many websites, books and articles on how to write, John Cochrane’s “Writing tips for PhD Students” gave me the best inspiration.

In many sciences, the writer tries to create an air of objectivity by distancing him or herself from the text. This often leads to lengthy sentences in a passive voice that are difficult to comprehend. In economics (and finance) a more active writing style is custom.

I use the following guidelines:

  1. start with the most important issues, and then motivate it afterwards. A very nice and famous example of this writing style is Hofstede (1980).
  2. write using an active voice, and present tense as much as possible.
  3. read your own text sentence by sentence to see whether it is possible to rewrite it shorter and simpler while retaining its intended meaning.
  4. use clear definitions of key concepts identified consistently using the same term to avoid synonyms that may confuse the reader.


Cochrane, John, 2005, Writing Tips for PhD Students, https://www.johnhcochrane.com/research-all/writing-tips-for-phd-students

Hostede, Geert, 1980,  Culture’s Consequences, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills USA.

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