Academic research is not written for the average reader.
The level of precision demanded by that work calls for a specialised vocabulary — some would call it jargon — that makes it often incomprehensible to a non-expert.
While there’s a legitimate case to be made that such language is necessary for accuracy, some think that the whole thing has gone too far.
In a recent essay titled “Why Academics Stink At Writing” for the The Chronicle Of Higher Education, the well-known Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker tried to make sense of the “prose style called academese” that he calls “the most conspicuous trait of the American professoriate” along with “wearing earth tones, driving Priuses, and having a foreign policy.”
As Pinker points out, the Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin titles his homework “The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes,” and then tells Hobbes “Academia, here I come!” is not far off.
Pinker has a variety of explanations, including the idea that there’s little incentive for academics to write well in a conventional sense. Still, he offers a link to a free downloadable writing guide for academics and mentions his new book, “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.”
The essay got an unexpected response.
Researchers who use Twitter took to the internet to tweet descriptions of their work using a language that’s theoretically now the argot of the people: emoji. They used the hashtag #emojiresearch.
And the results were amazing, if sometimes inscrutable. The Chronicle collected some of the best responses in a Storify, which we’ve embedded below.
What do you think — easier or harder to understand than academic lingo?