Econ 479

The Art of Writing, the Science of Economics

Archive for the ‘Mechanics of writing’ Category

Jason Fried on Writing Skills

Comparative advantage announces itself always, as here. In short, dear colleagues, apply yourselves in this class.


Written by gregorymcnamee

September 3, 2017 at 7:40 pm

A costly comma

I often make this note in your work:

Use commas to separate more than two members of a series: “Truth and justice” but “truth, justice, and fairness for all.” In most grammar references, this is called the serial comma.

There’s a reason for that, and the Supreme Court backs me up. Victory!

Written by gregorymcnamee

March 17, 2017 at 2:25 am


I could be even stricter.


Written by gregorymcnamee

February 9, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Phlawed phishing

Clearly the writer is not an alumnus of Econ 479. A tip: When in receipt of such message, count the errors. One is forgiveable, two not—and almost always a sure sign of a scam.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 2.28.37 PM

Written by gregorymcnamee

August 26, 2016 at 9:37 pm

The devil in the details…

I’m obsessed with attention to detail. I don’t know that you can teach that—either that triggers you to stay for the next two hours to fix something, or you’re the kind of person who will just let it slide.

Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media, interviewed in the New York Times

Written by gregorymcnamee

June 13, 2016 at 3:03 am

That versus which

Which is which? Which is that? That which is the correct form is discussed here

Written by gregorymcnamee

June 7, 2016 at 2:19 am

Tackling your first assignment

Your first assignment is before you, and you feel the cold dread of having landed on unfamiliar territory without many signposts.

Your syllabus contains a seven-day plan for writing. Please look at it closely.

But now let’s simplify that plan just a bit to get you started. Here are four things to do.

1. What is the assignment asking you to do? Read it very closely. It is self-contained and tells you what you need to accomplish. Be sure that you understand the scope and limits of the assignment before you go further.

2. Now sketch out a very general plan. If the assignment is calling for you to argue to raise or lower taxes, ask yourself: Do you oppose tax raises generally? Are they sometimes necessary? Are taxes already too high, in your opinion, or are they too low? Decide on your stance.

3. Now think about three arguments that you can briefly make in support of your position. The syllabus gives you more guidance on that count.

4. Now—and this is of critical importance—what economic concept can be brought to bear on your argument? If the question is whether gas prices are too low, you might talk about elasticity of demand. If the question is about whether student loans should be forgiven, you might introduce moral hazard. Any argument you make can be supported, and indeed must be supported, by such a concept. Decide on one, and put it to work in your paper.


Written by gregorymcnamee

January 18, 2016 at 7:25 pm