Inflated Writing Styles

Subject: Inflated Writing Styles
From: "Daniel E. Wise" <dewise -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 8 Jun 1996 14:31:45 -0700


Inflated writing styles are nothing new and are not limited to the
social (and antisocial) sciences. Thirty years ago (yes, mes enfants,
before some of you were born!) Dr. Al Brouse, Illinois Institute of
Technology, gave a paper at the STC ITCC (as it was then known) on his
experience working with the Cook County (IL) Medical Association to
help their members become better writers.

In his paper, Brouse said he started the first session by distributing
paper to each attendee and asking for a one-page synopsis of that
doctor's specialty. He then collected the papers, shuffled them, and
distributed them. Then he asked each attendee to explain the specialty
written about on the sheet (s)he was given. Almost universally the
doctors complained that they couldn't tell what the specialty was
about; the descriptions were completely opaque. IOW, the podiatrist
could not comprehend the writing of the proctologist; the proctologist,
the pediatrician; etc.

When Brouse asked them why they wrote in such a style, the answer he
got was "out of respect for our collegaues."

I pick up journals in the natural sciences, physical sciences, and
engineering disciplines today and wonder whether the same is true in
these fields today. Sadly, I read dissertations for the local
university and have to report that graduate students are rather good at
mimicking what they have been reading for years and years.

So, is there anything new under the sun?

Dan Wise
dewise -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com

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