C.S. Lewis, in his celebrated Narnia Chronicles, told of a runaway princess named Aravis who escaped the evil empire of Calormen and an unwanted marriage by fleeing across the desert. When a talking horse becomes her traveling companion, he demands to hear her story. Aravis sits up straight, speaks in a low melodious voice, and blows everyone away by telling her life story in the manner of a grand epic. Lewis explains her eloquence by writing, "In Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays."
Why do we spend years in school learning to master a form that is so singularly unpleasant, nobody wants to read it? I spent years in school straining and struggling against that form. Over and over I was told that my writing was too lively, too vivacious. "Charlotte, you can say something like that when you're talking to your friends-- but you can't say it in an essay, you just can't." Why not? I was given many answers, but they always boiled down to, BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY! Everyone knows that serious ideas are never told in an interesting way!
So gradually I learned to purge my writing style of the tang of melodrama, the spice of humor, the exuberance of overstatement. I have nothing against restraint and discipline. Okay, I lie-- I HATE restraint and discipline! Nevertheless, I have grudgingly come to admit that they are necessary. However, I have a long list of things, either required or encouraged by the school system, which are grotesquely unnecessary:
1) Using long words where short words will do.
2) Finding new ways to say nothing, so the requisite number of pages can be filled.
3) Omitting personal pronouns. (If you use personal pronouns, you admit your humanity, and academic writers do not wish to be viewed as mere mortals.)
4) Deleting all jokes from the manuscript.
5) Claiming more knowledge than you have.
Of course, no teacher would instruct you to claim more knowledge than you have, but in practice, arrogant assertions are accorded more respect than tentative theories.
I've only been at BK a couple of weeks, and I've already read so many manuscripts where good ideas suffer and die in the shackles of academic writing. Most of these manuscripts are by professors. It's as if they're writing to please a teacher who no longer exists. Why can't they free themselves from this self-imposed slavery? Man, if you've got a good story-- tell it, from the heart. If you've got good argument-- make it, please without referring to Locke or Hobbes. I am the not the Red Pen in the Sky passing down judgment on you (although I may look it, from this distance.) I am a human being, and I want to entertained, enlightened, educated. So get out from behind your prickly fence of words and speak to me as if I was a friend.