Re: Academic Pomposity

Subject: Re: Academic Pomposity
From: "Paul J. Sisler" <paul -at- SISLER -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:02:38 -0600

<abreviated version>
be nice.
</abbreviated version>

<long, drawn-out academic version>
I feel compelled (perhaps by my contrary nature) to challenge the general
tenor of this thread.

While I have decided--as I'm sure many subscribers to the list have--that
academe just isn't right for me, I, nonetheless, appreciate the value of
scholarly research. I'm extremely grateful to our colleagues who are
willing to spend hours in usability labs and late nights crunching numbers.
And truthfully, I feel just as indebted to those academics who stuff their
noses in dog-eared copies of Derrida, as I am to those who count the number
of times a user turns to a particular section of a manual.

Certainly, our academic colleagues provide the profession with a certain
credibility it would lack without their support--and from the horror stories
posted frequently to this list, I gather we need it.

Our zealous attachment to brief sentences is, at least in part, a cultural
idiosyncracy, and perhaps even unique to English speaking North
Americans--this list is international, hmmmm . . .

I am sorry one of our number found the
_Journal_of_Business_and_Technical_Communication_, edited at Iowa State,
worthy only of the circular file. Indeed, the journal may have (currently
and in the past) an audience limited primarily to faculty, researchers,
students, and scholars, but I for one am not afraid of getting cooties (nor
eye strain) from reading it, nor am I frightened of reading similar academic

Academic writing in technical communication is a genre, and it is rife with
jargon specific to a narrow discipline. But when it does its job: it is
intelligible to its audience (for the most part). It is *not* technical
communication itself--it is academic communication about technical

I think most of us would like to imagine ourselves able to adapt to the
genre in which we write. And good writers will be able to write and read
across genres. Sure, some academics would never make it in industry--but
they're academics, so it's not terribly important. And I'm certain some
tech writers wouldn't make it in academics--but they're tech writers.

I've been given the impression that many subscribers to this list are
members of STC, and I think the organization excels, primarily because of
its ability to bring together members of research/theory and
applied/practical disciplines. I know grad students read this, and I know
faculty do too. Many will admit that scholarly writing can be pretty dry,
boring, confusing, and PRETENTIOUS, but I will skip those articles, and they
might as well for all I know.

Anyway--let's just play nice. Our academic colleagues have plenty to offer,
and I don't want them to stop posting to this list or to start boycotting
STC meetings. Frankly, chapter meetings would be pretty dull without the
grad students, college kids, and profs. They are silly, alive, and fun, and
provide one of my few escapes from Dilbertesque Industry.
</long, drawn-out academic version>


paul -at- sisler -dot- com

At 12:56 PM 3/4/97 EST, Don Smith wrote:
> Susan Brown wrote, in part:
> "I am continually amazed at the poor quality of academic writing.


> this is writing
> designed to "snow" the reader with the writers vast knowledge of
> either the subject or the writers vocabulary, or both. This kind of
> writing is what brought me into the writing profession in the first
> place. I wanted to try to take highly technical things and explain
> them so that (almost) anyone could understand them. It is my
> impression that academic types write in the opposite way, for an
> opposite reason.

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