The trouble with academic writing

…the following seems to hold true for library science texts, but may be applicable to other portions of academia as well.  Either the writer devolves into an overly simplistic metaphor (e.g. “information systems are like grocery stores”) or he flits off into a fit of academic navel-gazing that is as astonishing as it is abstract (e.g. “the user comes to the information exchange experiencing a complex set of variables that he must navigate to interact successfully with the information system”).

Hey, I understand: clear writing is difficult.  It takes time and effort and even the best writers and thinkers can either get caught up in a vortex of abstract principles that are fiendish to place in a concrete context or they can get too captivated by their own pet theories or metaphors to examine whether or not they really illuminate the issue at hand.  But those should be first or second draft problems.  Step up your game, academics.


  1. Amen!
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..September’s Come =-.

  2. Even in literary criticism, where you’d think there’d be abundant models of good writing ready to hand, there’s a lot of unreadable stuff. But I think the library science literature is notorious for bad writing.

    If I ran the world, everyone getting an advanced degree would be required to demonstrate that they could write decent prose, and editors would refuse to publish crappy writing. (Also, there’d be world peace and everyone would have a pony…)

  3. Hard to single out anyone with so many bad examples, but education writers are often unbearable. And I don’t need to point out the dire implications of poor writing by educators!

  4. Amanda, longtime readers of this blog know that I really, really want a pony.

  5. yes…it is true….she does want a pony and she is goping to ride it wearing her maidenform bra :)(please tell me you know the reference)
    .-= marietta´s last blog ..Roadblock =-.

  6. No, Marietta – I’m going to dream about riding it while wearing my Maidenform bra.

    Geez! Do I have to do everything myself?!

  7. But it’s true – modern IT systems are exactly like grocery stores! Just with the tiny difference that the tomatoes depend on the oranges to display right, the aisles are all numbered in binary or named after comic book characters, checking yourself out requires three different passwords, and occasionally all the food temporarily becomes inedible when the network goes down.

    I’m not sure if I should ask if you’re wearing your Maidenform just while dreaming, or while riding the pony in the dream. But the webserver geeks of the world *do* have a pony for you – it’s been a common request from young girls and geeks alike for ages.

    It’s true! A friend of mine wrote it. If you have particular ideas about the art, I’m sure he’s happy to accept patches.
    .-= Shane Curcuru´s last blog ..OBEY Cheese Friday: A Fish =-.

  8. Shane, you kill me! I die of the funny!

    And thanks for the pony – at last….