Ordinary Language in Academic Writing

“I am deeply committed to the use of ordinary language in my work. Esoteric jargons, however, do not come about because those in the know are snobs. Specialized languages make certain conversations possible because the speakers have refined their definitions and can then share and work with them. The problem is that the circle of speakers is closed unto itself, and the expertise of one field is not available to those in another, not to mention to laypersons who comprehend nothing. I believe that to some degree, at least, genuine talk among disciplines is possible and that distinct discourses can be unified through a lucid exposition of ideas.”

From Living, Thinking, Looking by Siri Hustvedt

This quote beautifully articulates the reason that we urge our authors to trim any specialized language not absolutely essential to their work. Although the more specialized languages of individual fields enable those within a discipline to encapsulate complex ideas into short-hand terms, they can also lead to isolation. Many of the authors we work with have hopes that their work will attract a readership beyond their own immediate fields. Our job as editors is to recognize the specialized language that is essential to the manuscript and to point out instances in which more accessible language may be substituted to communicate the same point to a broader audience. 

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