Do We Dare Write for Readers?

This lovely article by William Germano presents an interesting quandary to an aspiring writer.

Germano begins by presenting academia’s structure for progress: professionalism remains tied to the idea of confirmation through writing. He then touches on the preferred literary formats of readers today, noting the increase in digital and decline of the beloved paper copy.

Yet he really calls out his audience, academics like himself, with the metaphor of academic writing as snow globe – charming, complete, and completely separate from the reader. While he proposes a change in writing to a machine, I believe a stronger alternative may simply be removing the dome. Let the readers wander through the tiny Parisian scene with its Eiffel tower and Champs Élysées. Let the readers feel the snow at the foot of the quaint be-hatted snowman.

Germano’s strongest point straddles two paragraphs:

And they [the first-time academic writers] take every precaution against criticism.

As we fear, so we write. Fearful writing is different from covering the bases. It’s building a glass wall around one’s project so that the reader can look at but can’t disturb the pleasant scene within.

That I understand. My own fear moving toward graduate school is of criticism; not necessarily of being wrong, but of being utterly and unapologetically discredited in my research and hard work. Such unrepentant criticism is unpleasant at best, demoralizing most of the time.

I thank Mr. Germano for this article, as it came at a particularly useful time in my life. I hope as I begin publishing my own dissertations and academic theses that I can stray from the snow globe model. With luck I can remove the dome and the reader can engage with my writing as well.

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