Monday, October 14, 2013

Official Style in Academic Writing

By: Paul Luce 

   The text I chose to critique for the official style is a Communication research article published by the University of Kansas in a joint effort with the National Institute of Aging. Two professors from the university, Susan Kemper and Tamara Harden, co-wrote the paper to increase understanding of specific communication practices used with the elderly. The text is in APA format in order to meet academic guidelines required for formal research papers. The prose style and strategies used reflect the academic nature of the composition.

   Due to the activity system this text is looking to fulfill, the prose style and strategies apparent are bland and strictly adhere to the official style. Prior to entering the text into the readability equation, it was obvious that the sentences were long and utilized numerous punctuations. However, within the greater activity system of the Universy of Kansas this piece is an easy read and the main ideas are blatantly obvious despite that fact. Flesch-Kincaid scored the text a 33.6, which is a pretty moderate difficulty level. On average, sentences contained 17.5 words. To me, that statistic represents the overelaboration and redundancies present in the writing. It’s no wonder that the average grade level for this reading was 13.4; it has a large number of complex ideas compacted into a limited space. The ideas and assertions are often made at the very end of sentences. This makes getting to the idea slow, and it requires a conscious effort from the reader to stay focused all the way through the sentence. Frequent jargonistic language also makes the reader have to exert themselves more because it causes the sentences to be choppy and ideas seem fragmented. The entire text is cold and descriptive: the epitome of the official style.

  Despite the excess use of the official style, the text still functions well in its given context. The activity system for which this was produced is one which already understands the background surrounding the topic. Therefore, jargon filled sentences like the one that follows are easily understood: “The referential communication task generates a language sample from each participant that can be analyzed for speech accommodations such as the use of elderspeak” (pp. 1). The audience who uses this text is highly familiar with the official style and understand the necessary guidelines that are being followed in publication. The prose styles and strategies used for this text are perfect for the audience, but to anyone outside of that group it would be a terrible read.

   Opponents to my viewpoint may argue that this isn’t as much of an example of official style as it is an example of academic writing. The purpose of the composition is to reveal no findings and ideas that have emerged from research. With that intention, it could be argued that elongated sentences and late presentation of information is necessary in this situation. In order for readers to understand the implications of the new research the writers must first lay out prerequisite information earlier in the sentences. The lack of voice apparent in the piece can also be attributed to a need to stay unbiased in order to enhance credibility of the research findings. Whatever your view, elements of the official style are blatantly obvious in this piece and work together to achieve a common end goal: understanding.

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