Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | September 14, 2009

Writing clearly is hard work

Gale Hornstein wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education about how much harder it is to write clear, understandable, interesting prose for a broad audience than it is to write dense, impenetrable, formulaic prose for an academic audience. Key quote:

Academics write so densely because they are afraid of being held accountable for their words.

But isn’t that the ultimate point of research and writing—to say something that hasn’t been said before? Supporting an argument with persuasive evidence. Teasing out the meaning of something intricate and difficult, then standing firmly behind that explanation. Intellectual life is invigorated when the stakes are higher, when people are called to account for their ideas.

It’s hard to do this.

The goals of most nonfiction writing are to be correct, clear, consistent, and concise. It’s very hard work.


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