“Architects are terrible writers.”

  • a well-known and highly respected architectural editor
  • A lot of people believe that architects can’t write: the general public, architects themselves and, obviously, architectural editors who rely on architects for raw copy. We have to assume that the editors are the geniuses and not the writers, since there must be so much work involved in making architectural writing readable.

    But for more than 20 years, the OAA journal Perspectives provided convincing evidence that architects – lightly edited – are actually really good writers. The catch is that they need to have something interesting to write about.

    The Right Angle Journal picks up where Perspectives left off. We have broadened the field of contributors to include artists, designers and everyone with a passion for the built environment, but the instructions are the same: write about things that interest you, from a personal point of view. We like to see fiction, nonfiction and creative nonfiction – expository, descriptive or persuasive, and especially narrative. Everyone likes stories. If you have something in mind that you want to explore on the printed page, let us know. We can offer advice, encouragement, editing as required and, of course, a deadline, so you actually get it done.



    Writing should be fun. You get to put your ideas on paper or on a screen, admire them and play around with them until they take on a personality of their own. It’s a lot like designing. But there are times when anxiety and uncertainty dampen your enthusiasm, and writing has the enjoyment squeezed right out of it.

    Most architects and designers have had zero training in writing, yet our professional duties often require us to write anyway. For most of us this means getting the writing out of the way and resuming whatever productive task you were working on before the interruption. It’s time to inject some joy back into writing, even when you have other things to do, the subject is boring and the deadline was yesterday.

    The method is simple enough. Writing is a design exercise, and you already know how to design. All you need to do is learn how to transfer your design skills into written language, and you are pretty much there.

    This plan may not make you an exceptional writer – that part is up to you – but it will help to make writing a little more natural and enjoyable by removing some of the barriers. It will at least help you to be a good writer, and may set you on a course toward becoming a modern Thomas Hardy.

    The Right Angle Journal will be offering a “Releasing Your Inner Writer” seminar at the OAA Annual Conference in Quebec City, on May 22, in Quebec City. If you can’t make the seminar, don’t despair, we will be presenting the material as an online course later in the year. Watch this space.

    Gordon S. Grice

    Editor, The Right Angle Journal


    [IMAGE: Thomas Hardy (1840–1928), architect, novelist and poet

    Sketch by William Strang, ca. 1910, Wikimedia Commons]