Avoid passive voice. When you write in the passive voice you sound like a landlord or a lawyer; you sound like you mean to avoid responsibility. Is that true? Do you eschew responsibility? Were you up until four a.m. writing on the walls of girls’ Facebook pages before you started this paper?
Interdisciplinarity – Inquiry across academic disciplines.
At Buck Duke’s Babbitt factory in Durham, N.C., this clumsy word is clattering off many tongues, as in this sentence from Duke University’s website: ‘In the most recent university strategic plan, ‘Making a Difference 2006.’ interdisciplinarity, or ‘inquiry across disciplines,’ was reaffirmed as an integral part of the university’s identity.’ Such coinages are the result of the impulse, common in academia, to replace perfectly serviceable simple words with one big fat important-sounding lump of bombast. Americans should leave this dubious art to the Germans, who are much better at it than we are. Consider the German word Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, which translates as River Danube Steamship Society Captain. Those Germans are unrivaled masters of the verbal train wreck.
Ms. Gitelman’s argument may seem like an odd lens on familiar history. But it’s representative of an emerging body of work that might be called ‘paperwork studies.’ True, there are not yet any dedicated journals or conferences. But in history, anthropology, literature and media studies departments and beyond, a group of loosely connected scholars are taking a fresh look at office memos, government documents and corporate records, not just for what they say but also for how they circulate and the sometimes unpredictable things they do.
I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say this: The short story is not experiencing a renaissance. Our current and much-discussed market glut of short fiction is not about any real dedication to the form. The situation exists because the many writers we train simply don’t know how to write anything but short stories. The academy—not the newsroom or the literary salon or the advertising firm—has assumed sole responsibility for incubating young writers.
Cathy Day, in “The Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia’s Novel Crisis”.
Image Credit: Anelise Chen for The Rumpus. Please click through, the chart accompanies a fantastic essay on the value of completing an MFA program.
This post is part of our “Best of 2011” series, which highlights exceptional original pieces that have been published on The Millions this year