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GRE Article of the Month – October 2014

Why Academics Stink at Writing
An article by Steven Pinker for “The Chronicle of Higher Education”

In an attempt to promulgate the instantiations of high-ordered English as they tend to be recapitulated in eminent publications, I hope to both guide and edify those GRE-aspirants who are under the not totally unsurprising notion that the development of a robust English lexicon depends not so much on the raw acquisition of definitions but the way in which said words are deployed in an ostensibly academic context…

Translation: Here is an article that uses helpful GRE words, so you can learn vocabulary in context.

9838692335_517a8e8542Photo by 55Laney69

Hopefully, you didn’t read the entire first paragraph, which was a torrent of unmitigated rubbish (my apologies if you did). But it is a perfect segue for October’s Article of the Month, in which the renowned Harvard professor Stephen Pinker explores the question: Why is academic writing often so inscrutable?

The answers he provides are hardly pat (they’re just trying to sound smart) and illuminate the very idea of what it means to write.

I should add that Pinker isn’t talking about the writing on the GRE, which is a filled with complex ideas and stylistic panache. He is placing the blame on the all too common instances of writing, much like that above, that fills reams and reams of academic journals currently being published.

Here is some important vocabulary to look out for:

  • Conspicuous
  • Turgid
  • Bamboozlement
  • Argot
  • Entrenched
  • In lieu of
  • Disinterested
  • Template
  • Co-opt
  • Flibbertigibbit (okay, this one is just for fun)

Photo Credit: 55Laney69

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