Academic vs. Public Writing
We don't have to choose between them, but we do have to know our target audiences and be aware of the political stakes.
Academic writing often gets a bad rap outside of the ivory tower for being difficult to understand, dense, and lacking the flair of more popular forms of writing. Some academics even take pride in writing in this style and are unconcerned with audiences outside of their field. Other academics value writing that can reach broader audiences. In contemporary academic circles, there is a perceived schism between those who tout accessible writing and those who think “accessible” means less intellectual.
I would argue that both writing styles have a place and that we do not have to choose between them; rather, we need to figure out who our audiences are in order to determine which style is best for them. Some people place a higher value on the public dissemination of important scholarly insights, whereas others believe that academic writing in its traditional opaque style is better suited to advancing knowledge production among other scholars in their field. At the same time, there are political aspects to writing for academic or public audiences that must be navigated.
Today I will look at the politics and affordances of these two broad categories of writing, and an upcoming newsletter will go into greater detail about what public writing entails in a more "how-to" post.