Unclear language And the Damage to Academic Purposes Essay

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Unclear language And the Damage to Academic Purposes

Sumedh Raghavan
ENG1100 EE

George Orwell argued that the “great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”1 This statement proposes the concept that unclear language is insincere in nature. Accordingly, it leans towards the notion that a lack of integrity surfaces in a work in the form of vagueness. Orwell’s statement is important to academia for a few major reasons. It labels unclear language as insincere by default, leading to the conclusion that unclear language is therefore non-academic, since the basis of academia rests upon truth. It also calls the nature of academic writing into question as its use of field-specific prose and complex patterns are often misleading to the average reader. Thus, the complex nature of academic writing leads to insincerity, as individuals derive their own subjective meaning from a given text. Thirdly, Orwell’s statement shows how the use of ‘academic language’ causes intelligent works of literature to escape the common people. As a result, unclear language creates a ‘knowledge hegemony’, which portrays circles of higher education as elitist and distant entities.
Academia is defined as a communal body of teachers and educators.2 It is a gathering of scholarly knowledge and the cultural accumulation of questions and answers. It is therefore safe to say that the foundation of academia is based upon objective truth and intellectual sincerity. To say otherwise would be to regard the production of fallacies as scholarly. This understanding of academia lends great weight to Orwell’s statement because it connotes that unclear language is a result of an author who “has a private definition, but allows his reader to think he means something else.”3 For academia, centered on the clarity of truth, the act of purposeful misleading is extremely antithetical. Hence, insincerity, caused by the author’s misleading of a readers understanding, is by definition a non-academic act. Along with the given definition of academia as the production of facts, it is also the pursuit of research. Orwell pins the cause of insincere language on a writer’s fear of controversy or active sugar-coating. He goes on to argue that the use of vague euphemisms and over-complex phrases is due to an author’s desire to “save many a sentence from coming down with a bump”.4 Once again, we find that such action is incongruent with the definition of academia as it seeks to avoid honesty for the sake of garnering favour with the reader. Such writing is by definition insincere as it undermines the knowledge of the reader and the author’s true beliefs using complex phrases. As Orwell does point out, this sort of literal subterfuge is particularly prevalent in political writings. Its unscrupulous nature means political literature is “largely the defense of the indefensible…thus, political language has to consist largely of euphemisms, question begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”5 Unclear language allows the author to enjoy a measure of morality whilst supporting even immoral political processes. Thus, the practice of insincerity in language is harmful to academia as it allows authors to shy away from honest writing in favour of political correctness, degrading the academic integrity of the work.
Another demonstration of how unclear language is significant to the core of academic purposes is by preventing the spread of knowledge. It inhibits a common understanding of complex subjects. A historical analogy for this is the use of Latin as the only accepted medium of discourse in medieval and early modern Europe. The use of this ‘academic language’ was purposeful in order protect knowledge and understanding, thereby enabling the elite a monopoly of control over social awareness. The provision of religious and academic texts solely in Latin was justified as the preservation of the holy nature of ancient texts. In a similar fashion, “when there is a…