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 was so embarrassed when I gave a paper to my friend to read and he later admitted that he had fallen asleep reading it. And this was in the morning after he had good night’s sleep! Seriously, how do I write an “eye-opening” paper?

Writing snoozers comes naturally to most writers. It happens when their guard is down, at which time they settle for clichés, general terminology and lots and lots of words. To a reader of such tedious writing, catching a few Zs just seems like a natural response. So don’t blame the reader if your writing put him to sleep—and to your credit, you didn’t. Your goal now should be to produce content that sparkles, word choices that startle, and phrasing that engages your brain—all in support of lively ideas. Papers characterized by these elements produce cheers, not yawns.

A tired word dulls the senses in the same way fog muffles sounds, obscuring by its very presence. Imprecise words and phrases suggest an idea without really illuminating it for a reader. Wordiness clutters the mind without contributing anything to memory. A good writer works—that’s right, writing is work—to avoid all this tedium by crafting sentences, rather than mass-producing them. While a good writer might use some of the aforementioned unworthy elements in a first draft, he will replace them in later drafts with exacting, exciting, engaging language.

How can you know whether your writing is boring or buzzworthy? The easiest way is to honestly gauge your own reaction to it. Are you bored by it? If you are, chances are excellent that your readers will be bored, too. Do this: Pick a low-energy sentence and spike it with a brazen word—say, “rowdy” instead of “boisterous”—and see if the sentence is energized. Or this: Sub an unusual word—say, “kerfuffle” for “disturbance”—and see if the sentence has a different lilt. Common words are great, but uncommon ones sometimes are greater. Experiment and learn.

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