Lisa Gold, Researcher

Lynne Kiesling

OK, I *love love love* my job, love being an economist, love teaching, love talking to policymakers and firms about technology and policy … but I am having serious career envy of Lisa Gold (as represented at her new blog), who did research for Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle trilogy. If I got this kind of endorsement from him:

Ms. Gold roams at ease through the most difficult and recondite topics, like an Indiana Jones of the world of letters.

I think I might just expire in ecstasy. Being able to immerse oneself in problem solving by doing literary research through the arcana of centuries would just be too.much.fun.

Her blog also promises to offer lots of advice for writers and researchers, which will be useful even to those of us whose daily perambulations involve more mundane non-fiction. Take, for example, the usage note from the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus for “utilize” that she quotes:

This is a puff-word. Since it does nothing that good old use doesn’t do, its extra letters and syllables don’t make a writer seem smarter. Rather, using utilize makes you seem like either a pompous twit or someone so insecure that he’ll use pointlessly big words in an attempt to look smart… What’s worth remembering about puff-words is something that good writing teachers spend a lot of time drumming into undergrads: “Formal writing” does not mean gratuitously fancy writing; it means clean, clear, maximally considerate writing.

I think I’m in platonic syntatical love … And I’m definitely going to use her advice in teaching my freshman seminar this fall!

Massive hat tip to Cory Doctorow for the link.


6 thoughts on “Lisa Gold, Researcher

  1. McCloskey’s The Writing of Economics (MacMillan 1987) is packed with little tips on usage and a few big pointers on just getting a paper started, and it is aimed at economists. John Cochrane at the U of Chicago business school has a great paper on writing posted on his website aimed at graduate students but useful for us mature economists as well.

  2. Hi Jon! How are you?

    Thanks for mentioning the McCloskey and Cochrane resources. I use them myself, and hope that your mention of them here will bring them to the attention of others too.

  3. I’ll register an objection to the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus regarding “use” and “utilize”. While it is true “utilize” may be a puff-word in many instances, it also carries a nuance of meaning not interchangable with “use”.

    If I report that “Our drivers were unable to use the new GPS navigation system,” we are left wondering if the units simply didn’t work or perhaps they were too complicated to operate, or something of the sort.

    Yet if I report “Our drivers were unable to utilize the new GPS navigation system,” we can assume the drivers could USE the devices, but that they apparently found no real benefit in using the system. It seems “utilize” implies making a worthwhile use of something.

    Consider also: “Jennifer utilized some dry grass, the eyepiece from her now watersoaked video camera, and the bright afternoon sun to start a smoky fire that was her best hope to signal a search party.”

    or this: “A temporary fix was accomplished by utilizing a garbage bag, an old coat hanger, and a generous amount of duct tape.

    Although the word “use” (or “using”) could work also, “utilize” here adds the flavor of deriving utility from an object outside of its normal use.

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