A Handy Mission Statement

 If you have not read George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language" I urge you to rectify the situation immediately (links provided below, no frets). Although of course I first absolve you of the oversight. The title is a bit misleading, allowing people who write in academia (and therefore, theoretically, not in politics) to think its wisdom and chastisement don't apply to them.

For our purposes, the essay might be more aptly titled "How to Communicate Complicated Thoughts Clearly and Effectively, and the Importance Of Doing So." 
The problems Orwell spots in political writing can and does apply to all academic fields: 
The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose...
That machete-sword thing he's unsheathing over there is for brutally killing, and thereby ending the writing careers, of anyone who persists in either laziness or incompetence. Death to he who uses language as an instrument for concealing or preventing thought. Grrr. Arg.

The Mad Hatter is an excellent specimen of literary delight, but heaven help you if you've been channeling him in your academic writing.

You can find the full text of Orwell's essay here, as beautifully formatted as it is on paper. I have no words for Mt. Holyoke's comparatively unreadable version, but you're welcome to click and gawp if you need a quick fix. By this weekend I'll have corralled a respectable collection of rigorous and aesthetically pleasing academic writing which I believe is working to reverse the process of general decline. If you've read anything that you think fits that general description, please leave a message after the beep.

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