Now, I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person. Not particularly clever, but not especially stupid either. However, sometimes language employed by academics really drives me up the wall. From time to time, certain academics seem to employ the language in a rather exclusive manner that can only be understood by fellow academics. It’s a bit like a secret language knowingly shared amongst intellectuals to exclude those unworthy of their high prose. Take this example from an article that I have been reading today:
Now, finally, the variance of a group is the mean sum of squared deviations from the mean (∑fd²/N), and it is a property of variances that the variance of samples added together is equal to the sum of the variances calculated from the samples independently.
I lost count of the amount of times I read the passage of text before I finally understood what on earth it actually meant. Maybe it was because I had spent all day studying and my brain was flagging. Maybe it is because I am just not that bright. Or maybe it is simply because the writer has indulged in the aforementioned ‘academic speak’ that I loath so intently. For the record, I tend to think it is the latter…..although if anyone thinks I am being a bit dim, feel free to say so in the comments – I won’t hold it against you!
Personally, I have always subscribed to the view that all academic writing should be inclusive rather than exclusive. I am not impressed by writers who stick to this academic code that excludes those without an ‘education’. I have always been more impressed with the style employed by academics such as Noam Chomsky. That is to say, using simple language that everyone can understand without employing language that excludes a large percentage of the population. To my mind, it takes greater skill to communicate complicated ideas in simple language, than to employ language aimed solely at academics. But then what do I know? It took me half an hour to understand what the quote above actually meant.