We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The really troublesome thing about all this is that many academic writers, even in the humanities, have legitimate and important insights to convey. Yet they genuinely believe, whether for one of the aforementioned reasons or for some other, that it doesn’t serve their interests to write straightforward English sentences.
My theory is that, if you couch your observations in academese, it makes you sound smarter. In ordinary English, most deep insights end up sounding pretty ordinary.
I always wrote with a goal of being understood by an audience that included well educated foreign readers whose first language might not be English. That helps to eliminate lots of high fallutin' academic jargon that's incomprehensible even in English.
Three steps to clear and concise writing or speeches:
1. Tell them what you're gonna tell them. One maybe two sentences.
2. Tell them. A paragraph or two or three.
3. Tell them what you told them. A brief summary of the important point(s).
That is usually the advice given to someone who is speaking in public, where repetition helps to remind your listeners of the main points of your talk. I don't think it is necessarily a prescription for clear writing or even clear speaking, however. Even if you follow this format, you can still spout unintelligible nonsense in your talk. It sets the structure of whatever it is you are writing/saying, but even so you can still be incomprehensible to your reading/listening audience. The words matter. Language matters.
Not "a prescription for clear writing"? Anyone who has been seduced by a headline to read a news article only to be subjected to sophomoric writing and ego display by the author might disagree. A news article should be the epitome of a brief and concise exchange of information but is more often a feeble attempt at writing the great American novel. How may times do you find the nugget of data in the last paragraph after reading 15 minutes of ego boosting prose? If the first paragraph does not convey to me the purpose and gist of what I am about to read I move on. Life is too short to waste 15 minutes reading tripe.
When I was in grad school, I had Professor Robert Heilbroner for two semesters. An accomplished writer, he graded the class simply. One paper, to be delivered at the end of term.
The paper had to combine the elements of the course he taught, tie in some historical precedent, as well as current event or activity, and be publishable to get an "A".
I got and "A" and a "B+", but both papers were returned with the same comments. My style was one of "high journalism" (I got one of my undergrad degrees in TV Production so I took many courses in journalism, not a surprise), and I seemed to "write as if you're speaking to someone." He said these were perfectly acceptable styles of writing, and the work I did was excellent and well-researched, but if I wanted to be taken seriously as a potential PhD student (I was only going for my Master's), I would have to learn to write in a more academic style.
I interpreted his comments to mean he enjoyed reading my work but I wasn't boring enough to write for an academic journal.