/ Writing

Why academic writing sucks

The wordy, verbose garbage that those in academia produce is not good writing. That’s because it’s not reader friendly.

I mean the style used to write research papers, thesis’s and other collegiate writing.

Why is it written like that? Why is it written in such a way that you have to be an academic to read it?

I’ve read many blog posts and set of documentation written by those that have been to college or university.

It seems to me that we are doing young people a dis-service. If we are teaching them to write in a manner that nobody wants to read. Or with a style that people find difficult to read.

It raises the question: what’s the point of writing if you re going to write like that?

Here are the things I often see in academic writing:

  • Long sentences
  • Long paragraphs
  • Long words where a shorter one would have done

I’m not suggesting all your sentences should be short. That would be weird. A better technique is to vary the length of your sentences. It creates a natural flow. And it makes your writing easier to read.

I remember when I was studying for my A Levels at school. I wrote an essay that had all the facts covered. I got a low grade for it, though. That was because my teacher found it hard to read.

My dad was attending a report writing course at the time. He showed me some of the notes. One thing that stood out to me was the need to write with ABC:

  • Accuracy
  • Brevity
  • Clarity

It has stuck with me ever since. Write accurately, short and to the point and with clarity.

I wish I had a copy of those notes. I’d hand them to every former (or current) student who writes with a serious case of verbal diarrhoea.

You see the same problem in business writing too. I suspect for the same reason. Business people are (mostly) college or university educated these days.

I’m not on my own on this either. The Plain English Campaign say this:

It's not 'cat sat on the mat’ or 'Janet and John' writing. Almost anything − from leaflets and letters to legal documents − can be written in plain English without being patronising or oversimplified.

Yeah, what they said.

There’s one author who’s work I particularly enjoy for this reason. That author would be Ernest Hemingway. The Plain English Campaign would approve his style.

Here’s one of his quotes about writing:

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
Ernest Hemingway

Yeah, what he said.

The thing is: with a bit of effort, you can pair down your writing to make it easy to read. Verbose waffle serves nobody well, least of all your readers.