Simple language

When I was putting together my ethics application my supervisors ruthless attitude to ensuring I wrote in ‘plain language’ was a huge challenge to me. Basically her challenge to me meant I had to decide what I was not going to say, what I was going to leave out. At the time this was frustrating. A couple of times I have had people in the field publicly humiliate me because my project is so reductionist. However, I have also been glad to have to leave a lot out as I have a lot more freedom and my project, as a result of its simplicity, does not intimidate people.

However, if my supervisor was to make the same demands of me in writing up I am sure I would not even bother trying to meet her challenges. It is not because I reject the idea that writing should be readable, and I do not believe my examiners should think so much of my findings that it should be up to them to work out what I am saying. It is because I (possibly naively) believe that a thesis should allow you to develop a complex proposition. This proposition should be able to be expressed with clarity, but I fail to see how, in these diverse and complex social situations I find myself looking at, I will be able to do so in truly plain language.

I am willing to sidelines the layers of issues, theories and epistemological doubt in my research project blog. This is not because I think that the people reading it lack the ability to understand anything house, but rather because I think of those posts with simple propositions I develop as a sort of data. If I make them too nuanced they would not be so useful later on.

It is interesting watching the arguments back and forth on AASnet about language, in response to the conference dinner speech. However, they do not offer me much of an answer for my own struggles with becoming a better writer. Rather they suggest that people become very attached to certain ways of reading and writing, and that they are willing to shoot off an email defending them.


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