This is not academic writing 學術文章不是這麼寫的
Not all articles written on academic topics are written in proper academic English. In this "This is not academic writing" column we examine short excerpts from academic texts to illustrate common writing errors and explain how to correct them.

Unacceptable 不被認可的文章

“Chief astrologer Zhang Heng’s wonderful seismograph measured earthquakes and also gave scores on how well a government was working. Why was that? A common belief held that an earthquake was punishment of the gods for bad governing. Consequently, Zhang’s great job gave him lots of influence. His stock rose in the year 138 when he was the only one in the capital to discern a quake a long ways away. Days later, reports of a big earthquake were received.”

One of the weaknesses of the paragraph above is the use of vague adjectives, including “wonderful” and “great” and “big.” While the seismograph probably did elicit wonder in observers, that’s not the usual definition applied to “wonderful.” To say a job is “great” is mostly to exclaim about it without describing it. And is a “big” earthquake calibrated horizontally or vertically? That is, was it a mile-wide ripple or a narrow upheaval? Also, rhetorical questions can be effective; the one in this example is just wordy. The paragraph below is a better rendition.

Acceptable 認可的文章

“Chief astrologer Zhang Heng’s seismograph measured earthquakes—and graded the quality of governance. This was possible because a quake was believed to be divine punishment for poor governing. The commingling of science, politics and religion gave Zhang outsized influence in public life. His standing increased in the year 138 when he reported a quake not felt in the capital. Reports filtered in days later confirming the magnitude and location of the tremor.”

cron web_use_log