University Post
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Opinion

Spare me the French-sounding platitudes

It is no sign of intelligence to write so that only people with a doctorate can understand it. On the contrary, reckons this political science student

I’m tired of the academic world’s salacious cult of elitist, clumsy language.

Sound like gibberish? I regret to disappoint you. University study programmes suffer nowadays from foreign words’ Tourette syndrome and linguistic brain farts.

Too many students and university staff fail to write in plain, simple Danish. It is all made up to be as fine and intricate as possible: Unless a sentence includes at least seven clauses, six foreign words, and a readability index that would give Hegel a headache, it has all been wasted.

I study political science, and to my horror I can see how my fellow students, in their eagerness to sound clever, sling out French-sounding platitudes like raison d’être, vis-a-vis and a priori. Good Lord. It has become a competition over who can sound the wisest and most educated. But this is a complete misunderstanding.

”Most articles swim around in vulgar intricate phrases, while they French-me-here and Latin-me-there”

It is no sign of intelligence to write so that only people with a doctorate can understand it. On the contrary. You are intelligent if you can convey the most complex topics, so that working men, nurses and even the professional classes can understand it.

So where did they get this from? Did it pop out of thin air? Of course not! The trend is pervasive throughout academia, and has its roots in an education system where you consistently have to deliver written copy to people who are better educated than yourself. Throughout the programme you convey upwards.

But when reality hits you on the other side, it is quite the reverse. And here is where the problem arises. Because when you need to communicate to people who do not have the same background as yourself, you can’t write elitist and incomprehensibly. Nobody is served by this.

A minority of the scientific articles I read in my study programme are written in plain language. Most articles swim around in vulgar intricate phrases, while they French-me-here and Latin-me-there. I’m not saying that the language should be stupefied and that the scientific weight of the articles reduced.

“Teaching in written communication should be compulsory in any academic programme”

No, I just want the full stop back. That we strive to write to the many and not the few, and that we again take pride in writing in clear, lucid Danish. Written communication is essential in so many different professions. It is the point of contact to citizens, customers and colleagues. Yet it is shelved away, untaught at universities. Teaching in written communication should be compulsory in any academic programme. Content and its communication should be weighted equivalently. What use is it to have insight, if you do not manage to share it with others?

There is much talk of general education these days. So let’s start with the easy stuff; learn to write diversely. This is not gibberish, but common sense.

uni-avis@adm.ku.dk

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