16 April 2010

On academic writing, again

The link is to a salutary essay on pretentious and obscure academic writing--worthy of note particularly at this time of the academic year, as people prepare their assignments and dissertations.

The author (Rachel Toor) cites George Orwell on modern (not so modern, actually, given that he was writing in 1946) academic prose: "It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug."


  1. As someone who is presently learning to write badly to fit in, I found this an interesting read....

  2. Absolutely! "If you can't say it clearly, you don't understand it yourself". John Searle.
    On PSYblog there’s a very interesting related entry on the subject of clarity:
    “Complex writing makes you look stupid… This has been tested by a study that manipulated text complexity to see how readers would judge the author's intelligence. It found that as the text became more complicated, readers gave lower estimates of the author's intelligence.
    So if you want to be perceived as more intelligent (and who doesn't?) keep your writing simple... (Note: the context of this study was students judging other students' essays. This study might not extend to other types of writing and other types of readers.)”


Comments welcome, but I am afraid I have had to turn moderation back on, because of inappropriate use. Even so, I shall process them as soon as I can.