Pinker explains why academics can’t write

Ahead of tomorrow’s release of Steven Pinker’s new book on writing, The Chronicle features a teaser essay – “Why Academics’ Writing Stinks”:

An insight from literary analysis and an insight from cognitive science go a long way toward explaining why people who devote their lives to the world of ideas are so inept at conveying them.

Bad academic writing shouldn’t be so surprising. During your training as an academic, you get almost no training in writing after your undergrad studies. Sure, you are required write, but you’re not formally trained to do it well. In fact grad students in the sciences generally don’t write very much anyway – a thesis proposal, and a couple of papers, so maybe 4-5 relatively short manuscripts during your entire 5-7 years of PhD training.

I won’t make any grand claims for my own writing, but I have to plug my favorite style guide: Joseph Williams’ Style beats Strunk & White, hands down.

UPDATE: Link fixed!!!

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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