Academic Writing is Bullshit.

As well esteemed members of the scholarly community add more and more research to the bottomless vortex of databases and indexes that exists within academia, less and less people actually read their work. And they shouldn’t be blamed for it.

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“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Academic writing is bullshit.

As well esteemed members of the scholarly community add more and more research to the bottomless vortex of databases and indexes that exists within academia, less and less people actually read their work. And they shouldn’t be blamed for it.

The tone of academic writing is one of cold intelligence; there is no room made for clever wordplay nor delicious lightheartedness. There is only room for intellectual jargon that is, at its core, FUCKING BORING. Take, for example, this section from “Exploring the Politics of Minimum Wage”, by Oren Levin-Waldman:

“I have organized this paper as follows: I first examine the competing models and the ideological implications that flow from each. From there I explore why it is that one particular model has become the political focus of the debate at the expense of others. What I hope to show is that because good data on the minimum wage have been so lacking, the issue has been ripe for political manipulation… The final section of the paper examines the voting patterns of members of Congress.”

Still awake? Here, Waldman’s writing is academic in tone, and therefore incapable of being “creative” in many ways. It lacks any sort of originality or creativity. Waldman managed to fall short on already short expectations, and penned an anomaly that is as frustrating as it is boring. Here is how I read the section:

I have organized this paper as follows: I first examine the…*jargon*…from there I explore why…*jargon*…what I hope to show you is that…*jargon*…the final section of the paper examines…*jargon*

This guy managed to make an essay with a title like “Exploring the Politics of Minimum Wage” not only boring, but disappointing. Not disappointing like when your shitty $5.99 cup of Starbucks goes cold, but disappointing like when you catch your only child torturing forest critters in the backyard and you think to yourself  “Gee, I raised a psychopath”.

Meanwhile:


What must be taken into account by the academic community is the level of literacy and intelligence of the ‘ordinary’. The language used in nearly all academic writing is unable to be interpreted by the average person. This is why tweets, stories, and entertainment are so popular; they are easy and fun to delve into. There is no annotating or third party required by these mediums; it’s just you and the work. Widely regarded as the most popular book of all time with over 500 million sold copies, Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel Cervantes has stood the test of time. Why is this? Because it’s approachable. Even for a piece nearly five centuries old, it’s remarkably readable:

“At this point they came in sight of thirty forty windmills that there are on plain, and as soon as Don Quixote saw them he said to his squire, “Fortune is arranging matters for us better than we could have shaped our desires ourselves, for look there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes; for this is righteous warfare, and it is God’s good service to sweep so evil a breed from off the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” said Sancho Panza.”


The simplicity of the writing has led this novel to become possibly the bestselling piece of literature ever created. It is in the hands of more people than perhaps even the Bible. Meanwhile, an esteemed academic source could garner a few mere thousand reads. It’s time for the academic community to stomach their pride, and realize that the only way to broaden their reach is through a reformation of their tone and style.

Sources:

https://www.google.com/search?q=don+quixote&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS726US726&hl=en-US&biw=414&bih=660&prmd=ibvn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi2z7i5obHSAhXE3YMKHeKXDPwQ_AUIBygB#imgrc=Q7YWP7U5PsTfdM:

https://www.google.com/search?q=kim+kardashian+tweets&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS726US726&hl=en-US&prmd=inv&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj71qeKm7HSAhVI04MKHcOVCJoQ_AUIBygB&biw=414&bih=660#hl=en-US&tbm=isch&q=popular+tweets&*&imgrc=_TMcG-SIY_dnVM:

https://www.google.com/search?q=scholar&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS726US726&hl=en-US&prmd=bniv&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjHjq6wo7HSAhVBzoMKHfdNBuwQ_AUICSgD&biw=414&bih=660

http://www.online-literature.com/cervantes/don_quixote/12/

-erc

Author: Evan Chronis

Do ya thang

2 thoughts on “Academic Writing is Bullshit.”

  1. Evan, your writing is contagious to read. Your words are so intellectually balanced and each idea flows from one another. When you would raise your hand in class, I looked forward to hearing what you had to say because you seemed to always present a unique perspective. This post is EXACTLY why I enjoy writing and want to be an English teacher. You’re absolutely right; it’s not the academic writing that I want to do, but the emotionally invoking discussions that I can have either verbally or written. I don’t want to have a backbone of methodology, but rather a brand new mold of my own ideas. To be honest, I think that reading is at the heart of any writer. Don Quixote pushes you forward through the piece and encourages you to communicate about it unlike any academic writing out there. Just as your opener put it, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand and agree with your assessment that academic writing is generally dull and uninteresting. I disagree that this is necessarily a problem. On the contrary, I think the lack of artistry and reading appeal are assets to the academic community. In writing for popular consumption, such as tweets, sarcastic news columns, and beloved novels, the writer’s energy is primarily spent making the writing entertaining. Academic articles are a completely different genre and their purpose is to present research and information to students and professionals in advanced fields. Explaining complex studies and ideas, and reinforcing your claims with the rigorous standard of background research that the academic community expects, is frankly all the average professor can manage. Trying to fulfill these requirements and make the writing entertaining would likely defeat both purposes. It’s up to the reader of an academic article to either generate his/her own interest, or at very least stomach the boredom to find the information he/she is seeking. Comparing a journal article and a tweet in terms of popularity or “likes” isn’t logical because popularity and entertainment value are not relevant goals of academic writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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