Fencing Bear's Quote for the Day on Academic Writing

"Most problems in writing come from the anxiety caused by the unconscious realization that what you write is you and has to be held out for others to see. You are naked and shivering out on that limb that seems likely to break off and bring you tumbling down into the ignominy of being accused of inadequate research, muddy unoriginal analysis, and clumsy writing. So you hide yourself behind jargon, opacity, circuitousness, the passive voice, and a seeming reluctance to get to the point. It is so much safer there in the foliage that blocks the reader's comprehension, but in the end so unsatisfying. No one cares because they cannot figure out what you mean to say. How much better it is to stand up before the firing line and discover that no one ordered your execution. The most the critics want is an intense fencing match [sic!], and you are more than up to the challenge because you have honed the edges of your research and said forthrightly what you thought."

--Lynn Hunt, "How Writing Leads to Thinking (And not the other way around)," Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association 48:2 (February 2010): 16-18, at p. 18.


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