Annie Claus’s essay, “How a professional writer improved my academic writing” at Savage Minds is quite useful. She counsels academics to resist overly long sentences, to vary the structure of paragraphs, and to reflect on each element of the paper and what it contributes to communicating the message. I differ with Claus, however, in cautioning against a particular set of words. At the risk of being labeled a positivist, I’ve compared the frequency of “insipid grammatical markers” in American Anthropologist, the Corpus of Contemporary American English, and the work of Joan Didion. The results, to paraphrase an academic writing cliche, are a bit more complicated.
February 20, 2015