My grandmother says “if you can’t say something in plain English (actually, she says Dutch), you’re probably hiding something. On the other side of the spectrum I often hear the importance of nuances uttered by fellow scientists who complain about the trouble with (clear) language to cover all those nuances. I do think using clear language leaves room enough for nuance and using this kind of language can help spread messages.
I also think this is a task for any scientist to skip the bad writing and try to be as clear as possible.
Oh, btw, the post of Greg reminded me of the great Sokal Hoax.
Last year, I briefly visited the U.K. and, while I was there, I popped in to the Cambridge University Press shop. It’s one of my favourite places because you can always pick-up a relatively inexpensive paperback on an obscure yet intriguing subject. This time, I alighted upon “Learning to Write Badly” by Michael Billig.
Billig is a professor of social sciences at Loughborough University and the book is ahowl of pain provokedby the poor quality of writing in hisfield. In Chapter One, he offers an analysis of the problem:
“This abstract way of writing – filled with conceptual nouns and emptied of people – is something that we will encounter many times in subsequent chapters. It is a conventional way of writing, but with unfortunate consequences for the social sciences. In analysing this style of writing, I will not entirely abandon all aesthetics. I want to suggest, however, that, once…
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