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Sunday
Jan022011

Beware of "Academese" and Write Like You Speak

How many articles have you had to read that use words or phrases a little bit like this:  "subdialectic desematicism and neoconceptualist appropriation are the primary characteristics of interpolated consciousness."  I'll bet more than a few.  And I, for one, have no idea what this phrase means without some serious re-reading and googling, if it means anything at all.  I wonder if a writer who seeks to use these types of phrases even knows their meanings (unless the writer is, say, Michel Foucault or some other philosophy head).

Fordham graduate student Alexandra Loizzo defines such potential gobbledygook as "academese" and offers this advice about why you should avoid it at all costs.  Similarly, Will Mari, writing for The Daily at the University of Washington warns against "academese" in this article.

This doesn't mean you should avoid the words that are important within your discipline when you write, nor that you shouldn't sound "academic."  But use disciplinary and academic words in ways that you know how.

For fun, here's some proof for why "academese" borders on the meaningless:  The Postmodern Essay Generator, part of the wonderful blog Communications From Elsewhere, creates randomly generated essays, which seem to make sense but are designed using a text generator (including fake citations!) and honestly mean nothing at all.  Click "refresh" and you'll see what I mean.  

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