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Williams was also bold in pinpointing the possible sources of bad writing. In 1981, he and co-researcher Rosemary Hake published a survey ["Style and its Consequences: Do as I Do, Not as I Say"] that found teachers of English at some high schools and colleges consistently preferred verbose, turgid writing to tight writing — in effect, rewarding bad, convoluted writers with better grades. Of this, he told the Chronicle, “Most college writing instructors have never had to write for a living, they base their values on extensively edited, belletristic or literary prose.”
Joseph M. Williams, professor emeritus of English and linguistics at the University of Chicago, passed away on Friday, February 22; his emphasis on clean, professional writing led him to co-found the university's beloved Little Red Schoolhouse writing program, which improved the prose of many of my friends. The Trib, the Maroon, and the university all have obits.