In a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Stephen Pinker adds to the growing list of articles that attack bad academic writing. These attacks on academic writing (some of which, admittedly, have been quite justified) gave birth to the infamous Bad Writing Contest.
I have a problem with this entire enterprise.
Yes, there are examples of bad academic writing. Lots of them. But there are also a great many academic writers who write beautiful, elegant prose. There are academic books and articles out there that are a joy to read, whose stylistic qualities are on par with their intellectual contributions to their fields.
And because such writing doesn’t seem to enjoy the popularity of bad writing, it’s time to fix that. And so, to that end, Josh Eyler and I have decided to launch a contest for Beautiful Academic Writing.
The rules are simple:
Submit entries of the best academic writing you’ve ever read by November 30, 2014.
Entries should not exceed 500 words and should represent the best, clearest, and most stunningly beautiful of scholarly prose. Please provide the author(s) of the work, and the full citation for reference.
Please include your name, institution (if applicable), and an email address with your entry.
Winners will receive respect and admiration. To the extent possible we will contact all authors whose work is cited here to notify them that they were honored in this way.
We have no idea what will come of this. But if nothing else, it may help to provide some small measure of recognition to the very many scholars who are also fine wordsmiths.