Writing Well VS Writing Well for Academia

One of my assignments for class this week was to take a couple paragraphs of any essay I’ve written this year and rewrite it, taking out 25% of the words in the process. 25% might not seem like a lot, but trust me, it’s a significant chunk. Especially if you, like me, want to spend the entire time wailing “my preeeeeecccciouusssssss. . .words. I neeeeeedsssss them to make senssssse, hobbitses!”

I’ve posted the paragraphs below, first the normal one and then the one with 25% less wordage. Now keep in mind, I got a pretty good grade on the original paper and all of the paragraphs were like that.

Original excerpt from my now-famous essay “Brainwashing Is the Way: Your Guide to a Truly Utopian Society” (and yes, I received a passing grade  on it if you were wondering):

A utopia, while not necessarily a perfect place, is a society with excellent answers to the problems that plague humanity. The problem is that many of the resources of such societies go into patching up human problems rather than scientific development. Humanity is, essentially, doomed to repeat itself in all manner of crimes, regardless of how well certain groups of people have been socially conditioned, or however many rules and consequences are put in place. The only chance for a truly utopian society, then, would be to fundamentally alter humanity in some way, either through technology or extensive training, in order to achieve this goal.

The Land of Sand and Science sets out to do exactly that, drawing heavily on Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World as justification. Cavendish’s world, interestingly, consists mostly of non-humans. Half-men half-animals make up the majority of the population: “some were bear-men, some worm-men, some fish- or fly-men. . .” (Cavendish 133). While these animal-men behave in human-like ways, their names and descriptions serve as a constant reminder of their otherness. (180 words)

And the rewritten paragraph:

A utopia, while not a perfect place, is a society with excellent answers to the problems plaguing humanity. Unfortunately, utopian societies spend many resources fixing these problems instead of on scientific development. This is pointless as humanity is doomed to repeat its crimes regardless of the social conditioning in place. Therefore, the only way to achiexve a truly utopian society would be to fundamentally alter humanity itself.

The Land of Sand and Science sets out to do exactly that, drawing heavily from Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World as justification.In Cavendish’s world half-men half-animals make up the majority of the population: “some were bear-men, some worm-men, some fish- or fly-men. . .” (Cavendish 133). While these animal-men behave in humanoid ways, their names and descriptions serve as a constant reminder of otherness. (135 words)

Much nicer, no?

Now, aside from the simple fact that you should always rewrite your stuff (Always. No exception) what struck me about the first collection of paragraphs was the fact that I had written them that way on purpose. That’s right, I deliberately added extra, useless, and extra-useless words to an essay I planned on not only turning in but also receiving a good grade on.

Why?

In a word (or two): word count. One of the paper requirements was to hit over 800 words. When I got done saying what needed to be said, I was only around 500 words, so I went back through, added some more quotes from the book and a whole slew of useless words. “Especially,” “particularly,” “perhaps,” “somewhat,” “in order to,” etc. Simple filler with no actual function.

Obviously, this isn’t good writing. But it is smart writing, also known as writing for academia, and it gets results. Heck, my GPA is higher now than it was in high school. But every time I write a paper in this manner, I’m not learning how to write well, I’m only learning how to appear like I write well.

And that is especially perhaps a somewhat particular problem, no?

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Posted on April 18, 2014, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Writing Well VS Writing Well for Academia.

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