“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”.
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.