Why Academics Write So Badly and How That Hurts Them
I’ve been working on a piece of fiction for a while, in which one of the questions wrestled with by the characters is “why isn’t aesthetics more beautiful?” Which I think applies here.
One of the factors I observe within myself as an independent scholar, with no CV to pad particularly, and no plans or hope for employment, is the fear of being argued with successfully. You can call it imposter syndrome, but who hasn’t read over the article they’re working on and started seeing holes popping up left and right in the text and the argument. That’s where I see turgidity appear in my own writing, essentially as a defense. This is also I think why many articles end up feeling like a literature review. All the better if you arent actually making any arguments yourself, but just summing up 50 other people’s arguments. I recently submitted an abstract to a conference, and was told it was too much like an essay. In the end, I took that as a compliment, because I was in fact actually arguing a point, not based on other peoples essays, but I my own observation and insight. I’m not planning on altering the paper all that much, frankly. Like I say, it’s not like I need the publication. I’m more interested in having my points delivered.
Many years ago working for an academic think tank, I had to "Translate" a paper on using isotopes to measure aging in materials. Like translating cuneiform!
You are right, Iona, when the wave of change hits academia, as wit will soon, not being able to write clearly will be a death sentence for many in the field