Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Do Academics, Legal Academics, and Lawyers Copy the Brits?

In her Chronicle of Higher Education column, Rachel Toor observes::

"But in academic writing, the charm of such quirky tics and accents often falls away. We tend to no longer sound like ourselves, and often move into stiff mimicking of works we read as graduate students. "It can thereby be shown" is a phrase commonly found in academic writing, yet hideous on so many levels it's not even worth discussing. Among others: "thus we can see," "ergo," "viz.," "in conversation with," "inasmuchas," "heretofore," "shan't." Look at your own work. How many similarly ugly words and phrases are you using?"

These ugly words may sound familiar to lawyers.

In coming up with an answer, she quotes sociologist C. Writght Mills, whose conclusions about academics may also apply to lawyers:

"Such a lack of ready intelligibility, I believe, usually has little or nothing to do with the complexity of the subject matter, and nothing at all with profundity of thought. It has to do almost entirely with certain confusions of the academic writer about his own status. ... Desire for status is one reason why academic men slip so readily into unintelligibility. ... To overcome the academic prose, you have first to overcome the academic pose."


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