Academese: Are You Narrowing Your Audience By Not Speaking Their Language?

By Sierra Pawlak

During TAA’s May 2024 Conversation Circle, several members shared their experiences with ‘academese’ and tips for how academic writers can avoid it in their writing. Academese is characterized by writing that is heavily filled with jargon, overcomplicated language, and/or convoluted sentence structure (Wikipedia).

“The biggest sin in academic writing is the passive voice,” said Barbara Nostrand, an Aquisitions Editor at Gakumon and Senior Fellow at the de Moivre Institute. “It makes it much more difficult for the reader to understand what’s been written, and it’s completely unnecessary.” She recommends using the active voice instead, for example, ‘I saw’, ‘I observed’: “A trick to doing that is to move the verb as close to the beginning of the sentence as possible.” She recommends that people read “The Art Of Readable Writing” by Rudolf Flesch: “An important tip from that book, put yourself and your team into your writing. Begin sentences with words such as I, we, and the names of specific people.” Nostrand also recommended sentences be as short as possible, and no longer than twenty words. “Every generation of writers since Shakespeare has written shorter sentences than their forebears,” said Nostrand. “Motion picture shots have also been getting shorter and shorter.” Nostrand also said to “not be afraid of technical terms,” but that you should define jargon that your intended audience shouldn’t be expected to know.

2024 TAA Conference on Textbook & Academic Authoring Receives Rave Reviews

Multiple attendees of the 2024 TAA Conference on Textbook & Academic Authoring, held in Nashville June 21-22, called it the best conference they had attended this year or even ever.

“The opportunity to share time with, and be inspired by, fellow authors who are proud of their craft and conscientious about their work is priceless,” said Karen Morris.

Christina Gushanas said: “Every session I attended was intriguing and applicable to my career in academia. Not everyone at my institution values academic writing, so to be surrounded by others who were excited about academic and textbook authoring was very motivating!”

Attendees from across the country representing a variety of writing disciplines gathered for sessions on artificial intelligence and authoring, copyright, DEI, writing strategies, productivity, marketing, contracts, and much more.

Before You Start Writing: Identify the Journal You Want to Publish In

By Sierra Pawlak

Dave Harris, an editor and writing coach from Thought Clearing, says identifying the journal you want to publish in early helps you decide what goes into the paper you write.

“You want to identify what journal you’re writing to first, because every journal is different, and if you’re not doing a good job of targeting your article to a specific journal, you’re going to have a harder time getting accepted,” he said, during the April 2024 TAA Conversation Circle discussion on the topic of literature reviews. “At some point where you’ve got this research project that you’ve done and you’re trying to write it up, that’s when you say, ‘here’s the journal I want to go to,’ and you start there, thinking about how to frame your material to suit the journal.”