Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問

The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I once listened as a scholar talked about the need to make an academic paper not only content-rich and weighty, but also “charming.” That sounded too trendy to me and not very scholarly. Is there anything to the scholar’s suggestion?

Do you wish to be charming? Do you wish to charm your professor? If we were honest, each of us would admit to wanting to be charming. After all, to charm is to be found extremely pleasing or delightful. How is that not desirable? The problem is that while all children are deemed charming, the quality usually is ascribed to someone of the opposite gender. Women find men charming and vice versa, whereas men usually aren’t “charmed” by other men, and so on. There is an unspoken seductive import to the word as it usually is employed in our conversations.

The professor was not strictly thinking of seduction in recommending that writers strive to be charming. He was talking about writing appealingly. Some scholars believe that turgid writing is the way to capture the attention of peers, with pomposity always preferable to simplicity. Others have convinced themselves that colorless, didactic, and wooden writing is the way to communicate with academic peers. The scholar you mention obviously believes story-telling, vivid imagery, light humor, and irony are not prohibited in formal writing. They are effective.

After all, a reader who is charmed is more likely to be persuaded to a point of view, to be convinced of a proposition. The perhaps unfortunate truth is that men and women who are presentable and likeable are more promotable than unkempt and surly people, no matter their credentials. In the same way, while substance and research should not be compromised, nor the formatted rules of academic writing violated, there is wisdom in writing papers that are enjoyable, even fun, to read. Academic peers and professors are not immune to the appeal of charm.


Posted at 2013-02-07 10:54:03

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