Friday, October 26, 2012

 Technology in the Classroom...Officially?

            Times are changes and so is the classroom. Troy Hicks, Carl A. Young, Sara Kajder, and Bud Hunt write the article to try and convince teachers to embrace the technologies that our students use and invite student to collaborate using technologies that will be helpful in their live. In this specific activity system, the groups involved are the English teachers, in fact any teacher that have to deal with technology – which is all of them. Also involved are the students, parents, and administrators. The roles the people play are all connected within the activity system. The teachers have to make the decision whether or not to work the technology into their classroom or not. This decision affects all other people involved in the activity system. We look at the teacher activity system versus the technology activity system. Are the students going to have to adapt to the technology? Are the parents, teachers, or administrators going to have to adapt? Maybe take more time to become advanced with the technology?

            The article, which has an average grade level of 13.4 or about a freshman in college, acknowledges the increase use of technology. The authors realize that students have access to multiple devices such as cell phones, iPods, tablets, laptops, and many more and they encourage teachers to use this to their advantage in their classrooms.
“The fact that we (and our students) are now able to hold a device in our pockets that allows us to read and annotate an original text, stream (on demand) multiple film adaptations of the text, look at the SparkNotes about the text, and find essays about the text from online paper mills—all at the flick of a finger—is significant.” 
That describes the context of this passage, but when looking deeper we can see some strong aspects of the official style. First of all, the passage isn’t extremely difficult to read, but there was some very “official style” words in the passage. For example, the authors use words like annotate and adaptations instead of explain and version. The whole article is like that. It is not written in extreme official style, but it is obvious that the authors are using the official style to seem more credible.  The official style is used in this context to make the article sound professional, especially when trying to convince other teachers that this is something that they should do. Also, they use the official style to be accepted into the English Journal by the National Council of Teachers of English. This is another group involved in the activity system. If the authors of this article did not write with some aspects of the official style, would be ever be considered for the journal?
            There are people surrounding the text that may disagree with the words, purpose, goals, and roles of using technology in the classroom. For example, some school districts are implementing a BYOD (bring your own device) in the classrooms. An argument against this movement that maybe there are students who cannot afford their own device and then what happens to them? Will this draw a line in the sand between rich and poor? Also, another argument that is being made is that there will be less control on the students’ personal devices. In the labs at schools, there are strict access rules and restrictions. Can they carry this control to every other device?
            I believe the authors find a good balance between credibility and clarity. It is well written and understandable, without becoming to challenging or inappropriate for the audience. In other words, they use the official style in an effective way to convey their message and make their argument. Obviously, it is good that the official style was used because otherwise the article would have never been published. Also, since they are writing to English teachers, it would be safe to say that for the most part, their audience would be able to understand what they are trying to say. They don’t extremely difficult language that would make it hard to convey their point, but they also use the right level of language to seem creditable.
Link to the Article:

Kacie Burke

The Biggest Lie Ever

…is “I have read and agree to the Terms of Use.” Why is this though? Because as most of us have experienced, one glance at the (often pages long) terms of use of various companies and programs, we’ve seen enough to know that the reasonable thing to do is hit “I Accept” and hope for the best. This seems to be a pretty safe bet, but why do companies make the terms of use so incomprehensible if it’s so important that we “read and accept” them?

When scrutinizing elements of the official style, one must ruminate the dissection of the individual constituents that typify its being…. Did you catch all that? No? That’s because it’s in the official style; the style that most legal prose like terms of use are written in. In more human terms, when looking at what makes up the official style, you need to think about what factors characterize it. There are several telltale devices used by writers of the official style according to Lanham, and examining the activity systems in which these devices are used is crucial to understanding the effectiveness of the text.

Here I’ll discuss Section 11 Disclaimer of Warranties and Damages; Limitation of Liability from’s Terms of Use. It’s an example of legal writing that is meant to protect the company and would be intelligible to lawyers fighting for them. However, with an average grade level of about 18 (according to, this text would require readers to have completed six years of college – the time it typically takes to earn a masters degree – to fully comprehend it. The problem is that this level of this writing alienates the majority of the people that would come across it. is a widely used website, mostly by basketball fans, and while it’s very possible that many of these fans are lawyers, the vast majority are every-day people who, after glancing at this, would just click “accept” and move on.

            Though confusing they may be, the official style of the text functions in this context. There are several activity systems acting around these terms of service, but for length’s sake we’ll look most closely at the fans or users most likely to come across the terms of use and the National Basketball Association. They serve to protect both the NBA and its customers, and in order to do so, it’s necessary that they’re written in legal terms. If you were to actually take the time to try to go through the terms of use, in particular Section 11, you’d find that the concepts stated aren’t complicated. For example:
 This paragraph states that the NBA claims no responsibility for any inaccuracies, incomplete information, errors or viruses on the website. They also disclaim all responsibility for any offensive or illegal conduct of other users of the site. The last sentence is really the most important, but to avoid any confusion or loopholes should a case go to court, they must fully and completely state that they don’t claim responsibility.

However necessary such a style may be, conflict does occur between the average user and the NBA because of the ambiguity and jargon involved. Terms and phrases such as “pursuant to applicable law,” “implied warranties of merchantability,” and “operator parties” make it difficult at best to understand unless you already know what those phrases mean. This is typical of the official style. By writing at a grade level of 18, the NBA has excluded most of the population from being able to understand this. The target audience that the legality of the writing is focused at (lawyers, court system) is the link between the two activity systems because that audience is who would need to understand the text, should problems arise.

            So again, why do companies make the terms of use so incomprehensible if it’s so important that we “read and accept” them? Because they’re not aimed at the average reader. They are written at a grade level of 18 because the people who would actually take the time to read and comprehend them are probably people who have gone to law school, who have the six additional years of education after high school. In this context, the official style functions well. As for the rest of us, we’ll just hope that those lawyers will be able to do their job if problems arise after clicking “I Accept.”

To visit the Terms of Use page, click here.

Chelsea Dolan

Science and the Official Style: An Unusual Match

Image source:

In his book Revising Prose, Richard Lanham lays out the elements of what he calls the “Official Style”. He says this style of writing is characterized by verbose, complex sentences, technical jargon, use of the passive voice, and extensive use of prepositional phrases. The Official Style is used in a variety of disciplines, from law and government, to business and marketing, and even in the sciences. Lanham argues that the Official Style obstructs clarity in exchange for a tone of authority, giving the writer an air of credibility, but what if some elements of the Official Style are a necessary evil? Or what if some elements are just… necessary? 

            But how can this be?  Isn’t the Official Style supposed to be the language that hinders clarity and helps put readers to sleep?  In some instances, this is definitely the case.  The legalese of bureaucrats and lawyers is the prime example.  Their use of euphemistic phrases and overly complex sentences causes the average reader to forget what they are reading halfway through the sentence.  However, writing in the physical and life sciences is meant to relay information found during research to the rest of the scientific community.  The community expects a paper to be written in a manner that uses the proper terminology and gives a clear description of experimental procedure.  In this sense, where Lanham sees euphemism or jargon, professionals in the field see specific terms, and where Lanham sees the impersonal passive voice, those in the field see a description free of unnecessary details or distractions.  So what does that mean?  Parts of the Official Style are actually needed in good scientific writing.

            As an example, I analyzed this research article from the Journal of Biological Chemistry, which was written about a series of experiments conducted to learn more about the parasite that causes sleeping sickness. This article is written for those who have a college background in Biology, specifically with genetics and cellular biology. This paper can be used by students and professional researchers alike, but I will be focusing on how researchers use texts such as this. Let’s take a look at an excerpt from the section of this paper that outlines the experimental procedure:

“Two vectors for RNAi were constructed by modifying pLew100 (a generous gift from Drs. Elizabeth Wirtz and George Cross, Rockefeller University (21)). The first vector is similar to that recently published by Shi et al. (16) (see Fig.1A) and produces dsRNA as a stem-loop structure. The vector was constructed as follows. First, a ∼ 500-bp fragment of the gene of interest (target gene) was amplified by PCR from T. brucei 427 DNA using primers containing XbaI andHindIII linkers. This product was ligated into theNheI/HindIII sites of pJM326 (a gift from Dr. Stephen Gould, Johns Hopkins University (22)). This plasmid carried the gene for an irrelevant Myc-tagged human protein (Pex 11 β), part of which will form the loop of the stem-loop transcript. This construct was then digested with HindIII and XbaI, liberating a ∼1050-bp fragment containing the target gene fused to the 3′ terminus of the Pex 11 β/Myc tag construct.”
Taking a closer look at this style of writing, we can clearly see the influence of the Official Style.  There is no mention of who is carrying out these actions.  The only information given is the aim of the procedure and how the experiment was carried out.  If this was written as a long procedural narrative naming everyone who carried out an aspect of the experiment, it would be a confusing mess.  The excerpt above shows a boiled down, barebones explanation of what the researchers did, making it easier for another researcher in the field to understand what happened.

            If the Official Style obstructs clarity through the use of euphemism, how could scientific jargon enhance clarity?  Non-Biologists may become suspicious when they hear words like “kinetoplast”, “multinucleate”, or “trypanosome”. They might just assume that if scientists aren’t using plain language, those egg heads must either be making it up or just trying to sound smart.  So why is it that jargon is necessary in scientific writing, but a hindrance in other uses of the Official Style?  Let’s examine this excerpt from the same article as above:

"Table I summarizes the effects of dsRNA expression on cell growth and mRNA levels for the genes examined. RNA interference of p34/p37 (mRNA reduced ∼95%), SSE1 (mRNA reduced ∼35%), ODC (mRNA reduced ∼98%), and Pex 11 (mRNA reduced ∼93%) led to aberrant cell growth after 5–10 days (Fig. 4). Following induction of p34/p37 dsRNA, 20% of the parasites became multinucleate, whereas uninduced cells did not show this effect. In the case of SSE1, there appeared to be an enlargement of the kinetoplast after expression of dsRNA. On the other hand, RNA interference of other genes, including GPI10 (mRNA reduced ∼50%), CDC47 (mRNA reduced ∼80%), and pol β (mRNA reduced ∼55%), had little or no effect on trypanosome growth. pZJM(RNase H1)-transfected cells expressed dsRNA (not shown) which, in contrast to all the other genes studied, did not lead to a reduction of the targeted mRNA (Fig. 4).”
 Here we can see the Official Style at work again.  Potentially confusing vocabulary can be found throughout the excerpt.  The passage is full of these terms because experts in the field communicate using the terminology agreed upon by the rest of the scientific community.  In reality, if specific scientific words weren’t used, it would make it harder for scientists to know what each other is talking about, as well as doubling the length of any paper.  Take the word “kinetoplast” for instance.  A kinetoplast is a collection of loops of DNA found inside of the mitochondria of a certain group of single celled organisms.  Imagine trying to read a variety of articles about kinetoplasts, when every author uses a different definition of the word.  To sum it up, it would be almost impossible to keep a clear definition of the word, if the community didn’t agree on a single definition of a word.  The use of scientific jargon, despite being a barrier to a non-expert, is helpful in maintaining clarity in the scientific community.

            So, in the vein of scientific writing, the Official Style can actually be beneficial.  Even though Lanham would say that the Official Style is a problematic way to clearly convey information, this particular style is employed by scientists for a reason. The exclusion of people and the use of concise terminology function to enhance clarity in the realm of science, enabling researchers to follow a certain formula for writing articles and dispense findings out to the scientific community.  Despite the many problems with the Official Style, it can’t be written off as purely detrimental to clear and concise writing.
-----John E. Yeakel

Albus Dumbledore’s Image in Official Style

I used this journal article for my ENG 301 class, Introduction to Literature, last semester when I wrote my final paper Politics in Harry Potter. It was written by Robert Darby, published by Quadrant Magazine in 2011, and was derived from UWL databases. Quadrant Magazine is an Australian literary and cultural journal. It takes a conservative position on political and social issues. The magazine reviews literature on ideas about politics, history, universities, and arts. So this magazine will choose directly on the journals which are written about politics, history and other topics they are interested in. Therefore, I think a lot of scholars in researching Harry Potter will focus on reading this journal article. Professors in the political science department may also be interested in this journal, because this article educates readers on what to do and how to do it in a political struggle. This journal used a lot of official style, for instance, relative clauses were being used so many times that it even appeared four times in my chosen paragraph which only had 161 words. I divided the paragraph into four sentences, and every one of them started with a slow beginning like “The operative factor here is not….” Furthermore, passive voice was also used broadly in this journal. We as college students need to write all kinds of papers throughout our college life. The official style which has been widely used for so many years becomes our first choice in the writing process.
We cannot use simple words and complex sentences like we did in high school because professors tend to be fond of Big Words and complicated sentence structures. In this sense, we replace a lot of common words with higher level words, for example, “use” becomes “utilize,” “show” becomes “edify.” Moreover, we use more and more complex sentences like relative clauses in our papers. However, why should we actually use a lot of higher level words and complex sentences in papers? In this blog article, I intend to analyze both the text I chose form Darby’s journal and the plain language translation of the text, finding out whether we need to use a lot of big words and make the sentence structure so complicated.
To some readers, the official style papers which are written in big words are more credible to them. Looking within the text, it appears that the word choice and sentences are put together with abstractive ideas on a high level.
One of Bohemianspirit’s less plausible suggestions is that Dumbledore contrived the confrontation in the Department of Mysteries and was pleased by Sirius’s death.
These sentences basically are showing that Darby wants to argue with Bohemianspirit that Dumbledore is really sad about Sirius’s death. These sentences are obviously important in Darby’s journal, because the writer begins to argue with other writer on contents in Harry Potter. The different points of view may influence how the readers think about Albus Dumbledore. The average grade level of the text is 19.1, which can be considered higher than the university level. Does Darby have to write in the high readability level? After I try to translate the text into plain English, I think he has the reason to do that:
Bohemianspirit suggests inaccurately that Dumbledore designed the war in the Department of Mysteries and he felt happy about Sirius's death.
The translation really loses some information from the original one. And also, it loses the passion which can be found in the former. In the original text, I feel that Darby is trying to convince me that some parts of Bohemianspirit's arguments are wrong; I can feel the passion through the passage. But when I translate it into plain language, I find that the translation does not have the persuasive emotion. It becomes an informative passage which just shows the writer’s ideas.
Another revealing passage of this journal, which clarifies the title of the journal, is:
On the contrary, he was deeply distressed by both disasters, though there is some truth in Bohemianspirit’s argument, in that he blamed himself for what happened—not, however, because he had sought such outcomes, but because they were the unwitting consequences of his excessive love for Harry.
By using the sentence structure “on the contrary,” which occurs at the beginning of the next sentence, it is understood that Darby is trying to give his own opinion, continuing to argue with Bohemianspirit and persuade audiences. Obviously, this is one sentence with 47 words. The structure of the sentence is more complicated. By using six commas and one dash, the writer successfully abstract four ideas in one sentence:
s   Dumbledore is deeply distressed by both disasters
s   Bohemianspirit’s argument has some truth, because Dumbledore blames himself about what happened
s   The blaming is not because Dumbledore has sought such outcomes
s   It is because the unwitting consequences of Dumbledore’s love for Harry
However, the translation of this sentence does not keep as much information as the original text:
However, Dumbledore deeply suffered in both disasters. Some of Bohemianspirit's arguments are true because Dumbledore blamed himself for what happened. Dumbledore didn't seek for such outcomes. His too much love for Harry brought the unwitting endings.
Obviously, although complex sentences and big words are hard to read and understand, they can contain enough related information within one sentence. Complex sentences and high-level vocabulary are not simply looking good or credible while readers have a glance, the sentences and words give enough emotion, making readers really feel the writer’s passion while reading the articles.

 By Ximing Yu

Work Cited
Darby, Robert. "The Hard Decisions of Albus Dumbledore." Quadrant Magazine 55.11 (2011): 44-47.
"Quadrant (magazine)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <>.

Lost in Language

Mark Hama

Modern poetry decontextualizes words and phrases, allowing each line of a poem to take on new meaning as the poem unfolds. The meaning of the poem is constantly changing and taking the reader in unexpected directions, allowing them to experience new emotions through language. This is a difficult concept for many to grasp and therefore modern poetry can often times come off as a bunch of mumbo jumbo. So, how do educators teach this to students? The article I will be examining today, “Blue Under-Shirts Upon a Line” Orrick Johns and the Genesis of William Carlos Williams’s “The Red Wheel Barrow” by Mark Hama, is written to give teachers an idea on how to educate students in modern poetry effectively. It is written from one professional to another, using long sentence length and many elements of the official style. In this activity system, this article is successful. However, I read this in my foundations of literature study class-meaning that teachers are not only reading it and reiterating the ideas, but expecting students to grasp these concepts on our own. This article is not successful in this activity system.
One of the main points that Hama attempts to make in this essay is that Orrick Johns was a heavy influence on William Carlos Williams in his writing of the “Red Wheel Barrow”. In doing this, he shows the walk of life that originally influenced Orrick John’s work, referencing many, many poets in the process. In the teacher activity system, this would be successful. As an educator, teachers would be familiar with these poets-bringing more clarity. However, this is not successful in the student activity system. Alfred Kreymbourg, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Amy Lowell, Mina Loy, Alanson Hartpence, Man Ray, Malcolm Cowley, Walter Arensberg, these are just a couple of poets named and referenced in the essay. A different poet is referenced in almost every paragraph of the article. When a student comes across these unfamiliar names, it only adds confusion and frustration. We readers feel as though there is an obscene amount of excess information-causing us to lose interest and feel lost. The point of the essay to understand what modern poetry is. Mentioning every single artist who influenced Johns who influenced Williams is pretty pointless. It is the perfected modern poetry Williams created we are interested in.
            Not only does Hama include irrelevant history in showing the influence of Orrick on Williams, but he also uses sixty-nine word sentences to convey this point:
“Based upon Williams’s enthusiastic description of his participation in the artistic ferment at the Grantwood art colony, one can readily conclude that Orrick Johns, Alfred Kreymbourg, and the other modernist pioneers with whom Williams associated during the formative years of his poetic career provided Williams with both the exemplary character of production and the apparatus necessary for the emergence of a new form of artistic expression, as Benjamin describes.”
This extremely long sentence implements the impersonal “one,” making this passive and more abstract. This is blatant use of the official style. Using “one” makes it seem as though the writer is not writing directly to the reader, but rather some imaginary, impersonal being somewhere in the world. This makes it harder for us to connect with what we are reading. It alienates us. It bores us.
 Instead of expressing ideas in simple terms, he chooses to uses abstraction. He says “artistic ferment” instead of simply sharing poetry or sharing ideas-bringing more complication to understanding. He also says Williams was provided with, “the exemplary character of production and the apparatus” necessary for producing poetry. What does this even mean? Apparatus is a hard word to describe, but basically it can be defined as the tools or the means necessary for a task. I had to look this word up in the dictionary because I thought it meant something more along the lines of social status-which was way off base.
Hama uses this abstraction of words throughout his piece. He adds unnecessary confusion. When reading this I would often come across a word I was unfamiliar with and make a guess at what I thought it meant-as I did with apparatus. This, obviously, is not an effective way of understanding exactly what the author meant. However, I am a college student, I am a very busy person. Like most college students, I don’t have the time or motivation to look up every single word I do not understand in a homework assignment. This was especially the case Hama’s piece as I felt like every other sentence had a word I was not one hundred percent familiar with. Take, for example, this passage:
aristocrat.jpg“This cognitive process-from the printed page, to the imagination “at play,” to the re-cognition that such a play elucidates the writer’s contact with his locality-inverts the critical principals of the aestheticism. Rather than the ascent from the local to the transcendent category of the aesthetic, Williams stresses the descent from the realm of the aesthetic to the reformulation of the local conditions that give rise to such imaginative work.”
There are so many words in this passage that I do not fully understand- “elucidates,” “locality,” “transcendent,” “aestheticism.” There is also the difficulty of knowing the difference between ascent and descent. In the professional world, all of this language would be understood and interpreted correctly. However, as a student, I had to read this sentence about 7 times to fully understand what it was saying. Many readers find themselves lost in the bureaucratic, jargonistic language that Hama implements. He alienates many, many readers as the reading level of America is around the 7th grade. He wrote this passage at a 17.7 grade level and received a reading ease score of 24.6.  
            This essay was originally published by West Chester University with an intention of educating teachers how to convey modern poetry effectively to their students. The intended audience was pure professionals. However, it was then published by Project Muse-a database that can be accessed by anyone with a library card. Also teachers began giving this article out as a homework assignment-expecting students to grasp these ideas on their own. This piece is not successful in these activity systems. It’s heavy use of the official style-long sentence lengths and extreme abstraction of words-makes it difficult for most readers of America to understand. The reader often finds himself re reading and working to dissect long sentences into separate ideas. We find ourselves working so hard to understand each sentence that we can’t even remember what the previous sentence was saying. We feel completely lost in the language. The sad part of it is, this essay defines modern poetry to a tee. Once the reader understands its ideas, complete understanding of the art is achieved. It is a shame this author wrote with such a heavy hand in the official style. It scares off common readers and prevents them from understanding the difficult art of modern poetry. 

By: Erin O'Connor

A Comment on the Constitution of CUR.

The text I have chosen to critique is named “Constitution and Bylaws of the Council for Undergraduate Research”. I have an individual interest in this text because this organization CUR (for short) is an organization which I will have to continually interact with in the next coming months. For example, in the beginning steps of my undergraduate research project I have already had to interact with a number of texts which this organization has produced, the most recent being a series of texts which needed to be completed for grant money and acceptance into the 2012 under grad conference.  

 This organization, from what I have experienced so far in my own project, has published documents with very specific and systematic steps to begin an individual project. From these texts, it appears to me that this organization has a goal of producing high quality, and often, new information. However, unlike most student work which is for a class or for a professor, the student’s work (for CUR conferences) will have to be very considerate of diverse audiences which might include college students, teachers, professors, the politically powerful, private and public companies, people with affiliations to universities, as well as the general public. Therefore this organization, in seeking to help students create work that will be received well, will have to also understand the possible audiences, and their various expectations. An example of some conflicting notions, that are very real, relates to high quality student projects which stand at a “cross roads” of education enrichment and capital interest. Knowing this, I would like to discuss how this text might address such an idea of “education for education” or a dissimilar stance of “education for capital gain” for this organization.
 In order to keep a sort of coherence and image (an image, I might add, includes one that must maintain “a not for profit organization”) inherent beliefs and expectations will be addressed in this text for all that might interact or participate in this organization or the conferences it organizes. Therefore, I will seek to examine how this text speaks for the goals of this organization. I will specifically focus on ways in which assumptions of the organization are either explicit or implicit in this text, hoping to find a better understanding what this organization is, and what it has to offer which will be done by focusing on key passages. I will hope to show that the difficulty of sentences in key passages are purposefully created in a way so they might have real world practicability, in the sense that they may be stripped from their original context. I will also consider how sentential elements within the text are used to frame implied ideologies or agendas of this organization.

Looking within the text, it appears that the actual word choice and how ideas are put together on a sentential level are in varying difficulty throughout this text. One difficult passage I have identified reads “In furtherance thereof, CUR may from time to time promote and carry out studies and projects consistent with its purposes, may commission others to carry out studies in its name, and may, on request, make the results of such studies and projects known to appropriate representatives of state and federal agencies, non-profit research organizations, and other non-profit agencies or foundations”. This sentence is obviously important to the functioning of this organization, but I also believe that this sentence was created in a specific manner so it might gel or fit with other related activities which this organization might participate in. To make this clearer, I see this particular passage constructed in a deliberate complex manner, to serve a particular function. This particular function, I believe, is a desire on the creator(s) part for this particular passage to have the ability to be “stripped away” and placed in another context, or activity system, while the passage’s goal remains intact. One concrete example of a situation which this passage might be “stripped away” from the original text could be someone from CUR letting a university know that it will have people outside CUR assessing a year’s conference, and cite this passage as justification for their wishes. The passage might be used alone as a “mediating artifact” which would further the goals of this organization, e.g. justification for having, as the text mentions “carry out studies… consistent with its purposes”.

On the other hand, some sentences are very simple, and do not seem to be created with the intention that they might exist outside the text. One such example is “Each Divisional Council shall consist of at least twelve but no more than twenty-four councilors, as determined by the Division”. This particular passage, while making sense and having value within the text, does not really apply to another context, aside from the particular instance which is presented in this passage.

Also on a very specific level of focus, the text has some interesting ways of addressing its agenda of, or at least what appears as, a specific goal, or ideology, of subject position when referring to people, or “members” of CUR. For example, we read “A person elected president-elect shall serve for three years”. Here the framers of this document moved away from the definite article the (as in the president-elect…) to the indefinite A. This particular choice could have been made (or interpreted to be created in this way) for a number of reasons including the fact that the indefinite article could refer to an “innumerable anyone” while the, would, linguistically, refer to a specific person. Though a minor detail, such a choice seems to suggest that anyone might hold this position, while the definite article might put the current president in a special position of power, which others feel excluded from. Another example of a certain way to address subject position is from the passage “CUR's individual members are organized into divisions…”. While easily overlooked, this passage might have been written “an individual member of CUR is…” The difference in the first (text) and second (my own) passage is of object-possession. In the first passage CUR takes possession of the “members” which gives an idea that an individual member is part of an aggregate whole of the organization, while the second passage (mine) places emphasis on the individual who happens to be, among other things, part of an organization. These are decisions which were very likely made by the framers who had a specific mission of letting its members how they should view CUR in relation to themselves.

Another very revealing passage of this text, which elucidates the object/outcomes of this organization, is the passage “CUR will sponsor conferences for students that will welcome presenters from all institutions of higher learning and all fields of academic study”. By use of the word all, which occurs twice in this sentence, it is understood that the inclusion of every institutions and every fields of academic study is a central goal of CUR.  The use of this specific adjective seems to recognize the debatable confliction or “cross road” of two existing of expectations of higher education, namely education enrichment and capital or technological progress. It is understood, for this passage, that the goal of CUR is not like other conferences which might have a specific agenda where, for example, a specific field is required, or merit is based on goals such as “who can invent the next big money making thing”. Rather, from this statement we find that this organization places emphasis on educational enrichment that is, learning something aside from any exigency which might exist. 

Dissertations Cause Brain Constipation

Dissertations are, by nature, supposed to be difficult to read.

            Upon basing my studies of the ‘Official Style’ on these highly regarded scholarly papers, I knew that I would have plenty of examples to reference and study when I went in depth on written prose.  Never having been to graduate school myself, I opted to try and research the basic ins and outs of dissertation writing.  Looking through the information I found on the websites of the major leaguers in modern college education, Yale provided me with some insight regarding the dissertation’s purpose: to prove, through writing, of one’s professional knowledge in a specific field of study.  To a normal person that loosely translates to “a giant report that eventually allows you to attach ‘ Ph. D.’ at the end of your name.”  From a student’s perspective, a dissertation is what suddenly transforms you from just a student into a member of the world’s academic elite, and the desire to be well respected goes hand in hand with the desire to be well educated.
Such lofty goals are not without their many tasks and requirements.  It is here that I found out about the strict formatting and writing style allowed in a dissertation. Despite Yale’s guidelines that “originality, engaging the reader and advancing their understanding of one’s topic” should be the overall goal of any dissertation, the actual format approved by academia prevents those objectives from being obtained due to their insistence to cling to the unreadable nature of the Official Style.
The article I found is a dissertation called “The Examination of the Role of Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a Root of Serial Homicide,” written by Maria Pasqualetti, whose work I located using the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse database.  In plain English, the title is basically “A Study of Narcissism in relation to Serial Killers.”  Ms. Pasqualetti, hoping to get their doctorate, is undoubtedly a psychology major. She focuses her paper on murderers, specifically the ones who possess narcissistic personality disorder.  This text writes purely for its specific audience; when a young adult writes a dissertation, it is to impress the panel of professors who have to sit and read through her lengthy paper.  These are the people who ultimately decide if their paper is good enough to deserve a “Dr.” next to their name, so it’s only natural that Ms. Pasqualetti will to use the fanciest language strings possible to impress her judges.  That is the audience, which is the whole reason for this paper to be in existence.  

 The whole thing in its entirety is sixty pages straight of prose followed by almost ten pages of citations... rather hefty, if you ask me, but undoubtedly fitting to the standard of what is expected of her.  I didn’t read the entire paper because doing so would cause me something close to physical pain, and I’m no masochist.  So I skimmed and identified the parts that a typical college student would consider the most unbearable to sift through and tried to convert them into a regular format that normal people would be able to understand.

“Prior research has been expanded upon by contemporary research to take in the concept that serial killers as children are inclined to begin to take on deviant characteristics from petty crime to aggressive daydreams which are inflicted onto victims.” (p. 27)
What this sample really says:  Old and new research about children (who grow up to be serial killers) find that they imagine and perform minor bad acts and project them on victims.

“In addition paternal figures are absent (literally or figuratively) or exhibit authoritative controlling behavior throughout the influential stages of development, whereas the maternal figures are discarding, disciplinary, loathed, suffocating, and controlling.”  (p. 28)
What this sample really says:  At the times when parents make big impressions on children, Father and Mother figures are either absent or very controlling in nature.

“If when examining the crime scene actions, we can determine offender traits, such as psychological standing, then the shared collective characteristics of psychological diagnoses can perhaps be utilized by investigative units.”  (p.35)
What this sample really says:  Psychologists can use the same information gathered at a crime scene to help define traits unique to the killer, which in turn helps law enforcement.

“The idea has been proposed that people diagnosed with this disorder are at an increased risk of aggressive action when confronted with narcissistic injury because of their poorly formulated sense of identity along with a rigid, incomplete repertoire of survival abilities.” (p. 36)
What this sample really says:  Narcissists are more likely to act violently when their feelings are hurt because of their poor self-esteem and immature choice selection of physical reactions.

            If the purpose of a dissertation was to educate, the writing style would not look so archaic.  Clarity and conciseness in the form of shorter sentences is what is preferred by students, not lofty word choices and the overuse of non-specific passive voice.  By the time a reader gets through the second line of what appears to be an never ending sentence, they either get confused by overly verbose word choices or forget what their reading, because all the information that the author tries to cram into one sentence distracts the reader from getting to the main point.  Worst case scenario, the reader gets so frustrated with the density of a piece that they lose interest in the topic completely. 

            It is unfortunate that today’s academic standards require students to read textbooks and articles written in the Official Style, let alone force those same students to emulate it in their own writing, especially in regards to dissertations.  When one considers the true motive of education, it is to enable learning.  This goal will be easier obtained when we knock the Official Style off the pedestal upon which academia currently places it.  

--- Shelby J. Phillips