Professors’ Poseur Problems

Aug 31 2012 @ 6:23pm

Barton Swaim reviews Helen Storm's new style guide for the writers of academia. The problem:

Academics in the humanities and the social sciences, it’s sometimes suggested, too often wish to give their fields the legitimacy and public authority of science, and so write in highly technical, jargon-laced prose. Academics in the hard sciences, for their part, are too concerned with factual correctness to worry about making their productions agreeable, even to co-specialists. Then, of course, there is the really uncharitable interpretation: Many academics simply haven’t got anything useful to say, but if they say it in a sufficiently complicated fashion and use all the vogue terms, they’ll get credit for having said something without saying anything worth defending. The really troublesome thing about all this is that many academic writers, even in the humanities, have legitimate and important insights to convey. Yet they genuinely believe, whether for one of the aforementioned reasons or for some other, that it doesn’t serve their interests to write straightforward English sentences.