Reducing Jargon and “Academese”

You will be tempted to “sound academic” when writing papers for college courses. Professors may make you feel it’s essential to your success that you sound like a language-making machine. Nothing could be more harmful to your style. Nothing could do more damage to your coherence.

“Academic” arguments say things like:

In light of the discussions that identify the implication of misrepresentation and exploitation of a subordinated culture by a dominant culture, the concept of cultural appropriation as an adverse inference has provided the ground for a contradiction. The countered argument redirects the notion of cultural appropriation with parameters and amplifiers that provide context to the wrongfulness that underlies cultural appropriation and sets the idea that there may be a dependent factor by the subordinate culture that must be met. 

Believe it or not, the subject matter of that paragraph is K-Pop. Yes, the author wants us to know that Korean pop boy bands borrow (let’s say steal) dance moves, lyrics, attitudes of black American hip-hop artists. The argument is that such theft damages the original artists.

The language of the paragraph may be fine for an audience of other academics already well versed in the details of the topic under discussion. But if you’re not terribly skilled at such language, the result of trying to emulate it is usually disastrous. I suggest:

Many claim that borrowing or reinterpreting aspects of a weaker culture by a stronger one necessarily harms the weaker culture. But that is true, and the borrowing is wrong, only if the subordinate culture in some way depends on the dominant one.

Some other examples.

It is difficult to imagine a society that is not influenced by music.

Music enlivens and shapes every society.

The influence that music has may be illustrated as forms of expression or ways of living that often indicate struggles, oppression, or movements against mainstream authoritative systems.

In lyrics and songs, musicians express their struggles against oppression.

Music artists, especially those within the hip hop genre, utilize their experiences to express their political and social views as a form of social activism.

As social activists, hip hop artists in particular deploy their art to express outrage at the status quo.

With the understanding of the cultural aspect of music creation, which considers these forms of expressions, the concept of cultural appropriation takes form as the exploitation of another culture’s music creation by utilizing their language, environment, political or personal struggles without understanding the cultural foundation.

The thoughtless appropriation of hip hop “style” by artists disinterested in the personal struggles or politics of the original creators is exploitation for profit, pure and simple.

In the entertainment industry, the challenge that often impacts success stems from consumer behavior, economic growth, and the industry’s culture.

Even conscientious artists, if they want to achieve stardom, succumb to the demands of record companies to appeal to consumer demand.

Understanding that there is a financial benefit to making music and that success is impacted by selling music, the issue becomes finding ways to maximize the financial benefit.

Understandably, the music business is driven by a desire to please consumers. And that profit motive contaminates any respect artists may have for the cultures they “borrow” from.

Stardom in the music industry has become a stage where only a few musicians survive.

Only the most ruthless musicians achieve stardom.

How far the musician gets depends on the music industry’s adoption of the changes from consumer behavior and preferences to listening and purchasing music.

Those who cater to “whatever the consumers will buy” rise to the top.

This phenomenon has been indicated to impact monetary provision to music artists and creates the notion of “making it” in the music industry.

Success in music is measured by sales, not by quality or decency.

It is in this area of entertainment is where cultural appropriation takes its shape in a debate between a wrongful act of misrepresentation and exploitation versus cultural appreciation for the different cultural traditions.

What begins as cultural appreciation for the music of another culture quickly degrades into cultural appropriation for profit when money rules every decision.

In this arena, musicians struggle between adaptations to corporate suggestions such as producing, singing and dancing what is considered a “music hit” regardless of the negative impact that may come from a cultural appropriation challenge.

When making music is reduced to making profits, even conscientious musicians abandon their appreciation for other cultures in favor of producing “hits,” regardless of the harm to the artists they exploit.

Many claim that borrowing or reinterpreting aspects of a weaker culture by a stronger one necessarily harms the weaker culture. But that is true, and the borrowing is wrong, only if the subordinate culture in some way depends on the dominant one.

In-Class Exercise

Copy and paste the paragraph below into the Reply field and “de-academize” it. Eliminating needless words is important, but MORE important is making clear and robust claims with whatever is left.

Societal disruption has demonstrably shown its chaotic effects and thereby illuminated the inherent instability of the society in question, part of which is the inevitable consequence of technological instability. The American reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic produced a significant disruption to our economic norms, particularly but not exclusively in the relative employability of large parts of the population. As a chaotic response ensued from the outset of the pandemic, it became evident to anyone who wished to see that American health and bureaucratic institutions were armed to combat not this new pandemic but perhaps one of an earlier generation, for which such a chaotic response would have produced less instability. With any disruption to broad systemic norms of societal behavior, it is reasonable to expect some negative blowback and destabilization. However, when America—unlike many other nations that did not experience deep negative performance losses—was put to the test, a large underperformance in employment ensued.