Help, don’t snark

August 4, 2016

Academic writing is an easy target: there’s so much of it, and not all of it is good. Understanding and detailing good practice is much harder to do. Zachary Foster’s list of bad writing tics (“How not to write: 14 tips for aspiring humanities academics”, Opinion, 7 July) is a snide and rather clichéd demolition of academic writing, most of which is uncontroversial: scare quotes, neologisms, the passive voice. However, underlying his assassination is a more political contempt. This is especially clear in the section on “Agency”, which is not about style but, rather, kicks against the possibility that colonised or subaltern groups always subvert, adapt or have prior knowledge of imposed ideas. Don’t they?

Writing is hard, and lots of our colleagues have spent their careers learning to do it well. Where can we read about their example and see it broken down into “tips and tricks”? Let’s celebrate our best academic writers, rather than just sneering as if from outside.

Isabel Davis
Birkbeck, University of London


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

Cricket player and umpire exchanging bribe

The need to accommodate foreign students undermines domestic practices, says Lincoln Allison, spying parallels between UK universities and global sports bodies such as Fifa