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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Robert Freidin

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world?
Writing is our best means of exploring our thoughts and the thoughts of others. Externalizing our thoughts in black and white provides the opportunity to examine our own thinking, precisely what our thoughts are, whether they are coherent and logical, whether the words and syntactic structures of the sentences we have chosen to express these thoughts are clear and effective or whether other words and/or syntactic structures would be preferable. When we focus on the correspondence between our thoughts and the sentences we use to express them, writing becomes an adventure—one which for me has never been surprise-free.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block?
I try to write when my energy level is highest and my mind is relatively clear. Working from an outline helps by identifying portions that can be written within a given amount of time. (Isn’t this what every writer strives for?)

What is your favorite time to write?
Early in the day works best.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
Editing drafts is best done at a distance of at least a day, which gives you the chance to view your writing as if someone else had written it, giving you some distance from the thoughts that generated it, which is a necessary space for evaluating what you have written with some semblance of objectivity.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age?
After 52 years of writing technical linguistics papers on syntactic analysis and linguistic theory, I am aiming at a more general audience to show how useful an understanding of basic English sentence structure can be for writers (from students to professionals)—and for readers. Decades of neglect of English sentence structure in general education, including college writing courses today, have made this a challenge. Taking it on, I wrote Adventures in English Syntax  to illustrate how an understanding of English sentence structure can greatly enrich the experience of writing (and the teaching of writing) and also reading.

Robert Freidin’s Adventures in English Syntax is out now with Cambridge University Press.