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Zeroth order approximation

by Michael Nielsen on May 15, 2005

My friend Ben Schumacher has started a blog, Zeroth order approximation. Actually, Ben started it a few months back, and has been merrily posting away, and I simply discovered his blog yesterday. This was great for me, because it meant I got to read several months of back posts.

Here’s a little sample:

But you know, so much of academic writing is bad. It is banal, orotund, unmusical, and stuffed with wads of unnecessary jargon. It is the sort of writing that does more to obscure meaning than to convey it. I see this stuff almost every day. I swim in it. OK, maybe I do exaggerate, a little. After all, I teach at a liberal arts college that is moderately well-known for teaching people how to write. Our faculty is full of novelists and poets and whatnot. But let me tell you, it’s here, too. It’s everywhere. It is like a fungus growing over all things, blurring their shapes — the verbal equivalent, maybe, of the ivy on academic buildings. And like the ivy, I guess, its main purpose is to conceal the shabby edifices beneath.

I live in fear that one day I will write ponderous, weedy, soporific academic prose. And worse, I fear that a day will come when I will simply not know the difference.

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