Why Academic Writing Is So Complex

academic writing complex

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Why Academic Writing Is Too Complex To Understand

If you have ever read any piece of academic writing, you definitely know how hard it is to understand. Complex vocabulary makes you stop reading. But some people are trying to fight this phenomenon and bring clear language to academia.

The first thing to mention is the 2010 Plain Writing Act lobbied by an anthropologist Annetta Cheek. The act states that all Government documents must be written clearly and understandable for the public. And you can now think the nightmare is over. But it’s not.

Opaque writing is believed to be some sort of a protected tradition. Researchers keep using complicated vocabulary, which is not clear for an average person. So we may assume the “war” is still going on.

Steven Pinker, a Harvard professor, wrote an article named Why Academics Stink at Writing in which he used a little offensive vocabulary to describe academic writing. To his own surprise, people liked the article despite its impolite tone.

Daniel Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor of psychology and public affairs, carried out research, which stated that using clear language in academic writing may make researchers look more intelligent. For this research Oppenheimer was awarded the Ig Noble Prize in literature.

However, Oppenheimer believes he got the prize because of the very title of his paper, which sounds like Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly. He was sure the title made people laugh and afterward think. Nevertheless, nowadays academic writing centers are using the research to improve students’ work.

There are a few assumption why academics write in that way. For instance, researchers simply do not think about the readers and even their students. They usually write for those like them, their peers. However, even PhD holders may not always understand what their colleagues have written about unless they work in the same field.

Another point is that academics write to exclude people who don’t belong academic circles. Also, such writing is considered “traditional” for academic journals. If you want your article to be published somewhere, you’re supposed to write that way.

On the other hand, the problem can be much simpler. Researcher spend a lot of time on a subject they are studying. They use specific vocabulary every day and may not understand how it cannot be understandable for others. In other words, they just cannot write in another way and think that this is OK.

No matter how big a problem can be, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Academics do want to reach more audience. They want more people to be interested in their work. That is why there are some media that play a role of some sort of a mediator. They receive articles from researchers and, so to speak, “decrypt” them so that more people can get acquainted with—and more importantly understand—the information.

Even after passing the act things are not changing as fast as we want. But they are changing, and this is most important. We just have to wait for a while.

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