Writing is like eating. A diet of junk food weakens the body. A diet of prose choked with jargon, and it’s only a matter of time before our own prose becomes larded with "posits," "delineates," and "imbricates."
I teach a course on scholarly writing for students at the end of their Ph.D. program. I define Stage 4 prose decay as the moment when "mediate" is the only verb left in their vocabulary. I start the class with an exercise. I take a random page from a prestigious scholarly journal and make them compute the average number of words in each topic sentence. Then I take a page from whatever Jill Lepore New Yorker article happens to be my favorite and have them do the same. The last time I did this, the average for the "prestigious" journal was 46 words (versus 15 for The New Yorker), a number so outrageous that, whatever goals the author had in mind, communication wasn’t one of them. When we’re done I can see the bemused looks on students’ faces. What have we become, they ask.
Wineburg: In a course last semester, I asked third-year Ph.D. students to write an abstract of an article they aspired to publish. In class, I had them put aside their abstracts, take out a sheet of paper, and rewrite the same abstract in language their next-door neighbors or great-aunts could understand. I then arranged students in pairs and had them exchange their laser-printed originals along with their handwritten rewrites. Not surprisingly, students preferred reading the handwritten versions. They were more straightforward, less jargony, and more to the point. But what I didn’t anticipate was the heartfelt confessionals that followed. To a one, students testified that rewriting their abstracts in plain language helped them understand at a deeper level what their study was about. In other words, polysyllabic strings of "mediations," "peripheral participations," "hegemonies," and "cultural tools" muddled their thinking.
Scholars Talk Writing: Sam Wineburg How a Stanford professor, known for his work on "historical thinking," learned to trust his own voice, By Rachel Too
lunes, 17 de agosto de 2015
Tres consejos para escribir mejor
Archivo del blog
- ► 2016 (538)
- ¿Qué es un héroe?
- Sobre la carta de Felipe González
- Las turbas de internet
- Un consejo para los legisladores
- Las acciones de voto múltiple en Italia
- La amistad mercantil: de lo que fue el Derecho Mer...
- Buscando a Werlinger
- Los swaps en Alemania y en Portugal
- Individualismo normativo: el individuo como fuente...
- Sólo las naciones-Estado tienen derecho de autodet...
- La devolución del préstamo no es una prestación
- El derecho fundamental a elegir lo que consumimos
- La foto más triste que he hecho en mi vida
- Las reformas posibles según Rodrik
- El origen del Estado: del bandido errante al bandi...
- Derechos humanos y política
- Tres consejos para escribir mejor
- Por qué Europa conquistó el mundo
- Colau y el top manta
- Para empezar, dejemos de gritar
- ▼ agosto (21)
- ► 2014 (529)
- ► 2013 (646)
- ► 2012 (634)
- ► 2011 (743)
- ► 2010 (572)
- ► 2009 (177)