Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The flaws of academic writing

Utitofon's picture

I feel that formal writing obstructs the free flow of emotion and makes academic robots of us all. As students, it forces us to focus less on how convinced we are of our ideas, but on the impression it will make on our readers. Formal writing glorifies abstract thought; it appears classy to sound complex and demeaning to speak simply.  The more high sounding and philosophical we get, the more our audience takes our words seriously. We can see this in the reactions of our class to the writings Dewey in comparison to Williams. Yet not everyone can understand or relate to abstract generalizations, so formal writing selects its audience and leaves the lay ones in the cold. Academic writing is indifferent to the varied backgrounds of its potential readers.  In some respects, academic writing can be viewed as an egotistical attempt to leave your reader feeling awed by you. It is rarely a conversation, but a lecture.

Academic writing in a sense robs us of intellectual ownership, we lose authority as Percy asserted, because we have to back up our thoughts with sources.  The message is that we don’t have a right to think for ourselves, we have to think through the eyes of the ‘experts’, and consciously adjust our point of view to fit in with theirs. It perpetuates the idea that there is a group of knowers and that the rest of us, the ‘know not’s cannot go off on our own tangent. No, our ideas have to be validated by the opinions of others. Yet, who says the experts are infallible?

Academic writing can also stifles creativity, when we emphasis on the form and packaging, writing changes from a hobby to an exercise; the fun is overshadowed by the pressure to impress. Of course, I do not wish to imply that shoddy writing should be encouraged. However, language as used in this way helps create and promote an intellectual chasm. It puts people with a poor writing background at a disadvantage, because they are forced to express their thoughts in a certain pattern and not as it occurs to them. If their writing or manner of expression does not meet up to the standard, then their opinions might receive lesser respect.

Yet we cannot do without formal writing, e.g i cannot imagine the constitution in a different format. However, whenever possible other forms of expression should be utilised to promote creativity. Definitely, declassifying our next paper is a good idea. In fact, I am in a kind of mess now, because after 9 weeks of adjusting to the formal writing style, I feel trapped being asked to work with my imagination.

Other ideas include but are not limited to poetry, mime, dance drama, art - drawing, speech, posters, skits and games.