Not all articles written on academic topics are written in proper academic English. In this "This is not academic writing" column we examine short excerpts from academic texts to illustrate common writing errors and explain how to correct them.
“Col. Aureliano Buendia is the Number 1 military guy in One Hundred Years of Solitude. That's not all, by any stretch. Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez also makes his character a neat artist, who makes pretty fish out of gold. But, to show the character is an emotional wimp, Marquez has Auerliano stop keeping the golden fish after he makes them. Instead, Auerliano melts down perfectly good fish and uses the gold for new fish. Why does he do this? I believe this is supposed to show Auerliano is a one-dimensional man, living in the here and now.”
The previous paragraph communicates clearly, but conversationally. It violates several recommended principles of academic writing. “Number 1 military guy” is a colloquial expression, as are “emotional wimp” and “perfectly good” and “here and now,” among others. Avoid such informal locution. “Neat” to describe “artist” and “pretty” to describe “fish” is hackneyed. Two sentences—beginning with “That's not…” and “Why does…”—are unnecessary transitional sentences that only add to the word count. Finally, “I believe this is supposed to show…” is a first-person formulation that is an opinion instead of an impersonal statement. The original version of the paper appears below.
这段文章看似清楚易懂，但如此会话的表达方式，已违反许多学术英文的撰写大忌。 “Number 1 military guy” 是口语的说法，其它像 “emotional wimp”，“perfectly good” 以及 “here and now”等等也是。再次叮咛勿使用非正式的惯用语，像是以“Neat”来形容“artist”，或是用“pretty”形容 “fish”，都是不合宜的。使用“That’s not…”以及“Why does…”这两句开头作为句首其实相当累赘，为求增加字数而以。最后的“I believe this is supposed to show…”纯粹是表达个人意见，并非客观公正的陈述。此段文章编辑润饰后内容，刊登如下。
“Col. Aureliano Buendia is the dominant military figure in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez also renders this character as a great artist, who counts among his creations beautiful fish crafted of gold. To convey the character's shallow emotional make-up , Marquez has Auerliano stop stockpiling the golden fish. Instead, Auerliano melts down each new batch of fish and uses the gold for a subsequent batch. He thus becomes a one-dimensional man, living only in the present.”
“Social scientists have come up with conflict theories to explain how social order and disorder are related to drug use. The theories aren't amazingly original. The scientists blame stress, tension and just plain being without—conditions commonly found in bad communities, or in poor and downtrodden regions. Sick to death of it all or afraid of dying, residents of such areas push what sometimes are called their 'life chances.”
The previous paragraph contains language that is not appropriate in an academic setting:
(1) It communicates imprecisely and informally;
(2) Its conversational phrases are objectionable—phrases such as “come up with” and “sick to death.” That is lounge talk; (3) “Aren't” is an inadvisable contraction;
(4) Vague adjectives such as “bad” and “poor” and “downtrodden” weaken sentences by muddying meaning;
(5) One sentence—“The theories aren' t amazingly original”—is an unsubstantiated aside from the author;
(6) Finally, the term “life chances” is not attributed to anyone even though it is quoted. This is a subpar effort. The correct version of the paper's excerpt appears below .
(2) 口语化词句，如“come up with”及“sick to death”，如此会话的口吻，无法为此篇文章产生任何正面评价；
(4) 模糊、抽象的形容词，如“bad”，“poor” 和“downtrodden”，无法为句意增色，只是让句意的表达更加混乱无章；
(5) 此句“The theories aren't amazingly original”，作者在文中并未提具事实根据；
(6) 最后出现的词组“life chances”，这个词组并不是属于任何人的，即便它是注有引号的"引言"。这篇文章的品质并不理想。此段文章编辑润饰后内容，刊登如下。
“Social scientists have constructed conflict theories to explain how social order and disorder influence the rates of drug use. The pertinent theories are keyed to stress, tension and deprivation—conditions commonly found in dysfunctional communities, or in impoverished and politically repressed regions. Encumbered with despair or desperate to survive, residents of such areas tragically try to realize their 'life chances,' the phrase that German sociologist Max Weber used to describe a person's individual opportunities.”