Together with wearing earth tones, driving Priuses, and having a foreign policy, the most conspicuous trait of the American professoriate may be the prose style called academese. An editorial cartoon by Tom Toles shows a bearded academic at his desk offering the following explanation of why SAT verbal scores are at an all-time low: "Incomplete implementation of strategized programmatics designated to maximize acquisition of awareness and utilization of communications skills pursuant to standardized review and assessment of languaginal development." In a similar vein, Bill Watterson has the 6-year-old Calvin titling his homework assignment "The Dynamics of Inter­being and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes," and exclaiming to Hobbes, his tiger companion, "Academia, here I come!"

Many choice observations found here. I'm very keen on clarity, a desire sparked in me years ago when @klenbl00@ pointed out the deficit between face-to-face communication and communication over Facebook messages. I've been striving to be a clearer communicator ever since.


Academic writing is all about audience. The primary publication is something akin to a proof, and precise language is important there. I'll be damned in most naming conventions aren't terrible, but if I say "white blood cell", that means one thing to the layman, but to the academic, that means one of several things.

    People often tell me that academics have no choice but to write badly because the gatekeepers of journals and university presses insist on ponderous language as proof of one’s seriousness,

More often it's a page-limit that removes explanatory sentences and crunches phrases down into polysyllables. At a certain point, you have to pick what to define and what not to. I would assume a scientific audience knows molecular orbital theory but maybe not Raman scattering. But then again, I'm not going to re-list the rules of quantum mechanics if I'm writing to physicists and I consider that to be common knowledge among them.

Still a good read and shared, the "Curse of Knowledge" is definitely one I encounter a lot.

posted by blackbootz: 1531 days ago