Poor style counsel

March 27, 1998

The concern expressed by many tutors over "masculine" writing styles ("Thinking like a man is good for girls", THES, March 13) is not that their "originality" should be less valued, but rather that such writing enables impressive bombast to cover up what is a weak piece of work.

Jennifer Davey seems to have overlooked the distinction between the quality of a work and its artificial inflation through rhetoric. Work that promotes its specious orginality is still over-rated by markers at the expense of that presented in a less self-aggrandising manner. And it is men who benefit disproportionately from having been encouraged to write in such a style. Moreover, in its celebration of a narrow definition of originality, the article overlooks the rather more important question of the accuracy and thoroughness of an argument.

As markers we may well be drawn in by the confidence and originality of the work of some students. But we should be aware that this often encourages us to overlook the gaping holes in their arguments or the poverty of their research. Work that appears less adventurous thus sufffers, even when its scholarship may be superior - and its final conclusions altogether more intelligent.

In fact, Ms Davey's article would seem to be exemplary proof of the case that it hopes to disprove: that confident rhetoric, bolstered by misplaced confidence in the value of one's own opinion, will earn a high grade, or publication in The THES, in spite of the weakness of its argument, the inadequacy of its research and the superficiality of its analysis.

While encouraging women to adopt such a writing practice may be a shrewd career move, whether it contributes to the quality of anybody's scholarship is a very different question.

Jo Eadie. Milton Keynes, MK14

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