In Defense of Academic Writing

judgmental observer

Academic writing has taken quite a bashing since, well, forever, and that’s not entirely undeserved. Academic writing can be pedantic, jargon-y, solipsistic and self-important. There are endless think pieces, editorials and New Yorker cartoons about the impenetrability of academese. In one of those said pieces, “Why Academics Can’t Write,” Michael Billig explains:

Throughout the social sciences, we can find academics parading their big nouns and their noun-stuffed noun-phrases. By giving something an official name, especially a multi-noun name which can be shortened to an acronym, you can present yourself as having discovered something real—something to impress the inspectors from the Research Excellence Framework.

Yes, the implication here is that academics are always trying to make things — a movie, a poem, themselves and their writing — appear more important than they actually are. These pieces also argue that academics dress simple concepts up in big words in order to exclude those…

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The Copper Thief

Moving thoughts


The Copper Thief. (On Dementia)

The tracks are there but the train cannot travel,
The copper thief has struck
And the service will unravel.

The engine is poised but it must stand still,
The signals are all down
There will be so much time to kill

For all the fellow travellers,
Stranded in frustration
In the barren waiting room
Of an unfamiliar station.

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The Track

To trudge it is to span the years
On mudded boot-prints, to share
The uphill struggle of careworn life.

This puddled, rutted track,
A hundred years in the fine rain
Beneath the low-hung, frayed clouds.

To judge it is to play the fool
On the harsh hill, to dare
To presume on ghosts marched.

And it ends at the rusted bar,
Where the toil and spoil began and begin
And the bridge between is hewn away.

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