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Study finds that too many adjectives and adverbs detract from academic writing | Inside Higher Ed


Study finds that too many adjectives and adverbs detract from academic writing | Inside Higher Ed.

Why am I not surprised?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the paper, “Cluttered Writing: Adjectives and Adverbs in academia,” finds that social science papers contain the highest density, followed by humanities and history. Natural science and mathematics contain the lowest frequency, followed by medicine and business and economics.

I’ve seen this quote attributed to Stephen King: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”  Mr. King – welcome to Hell.

Interesting that the study’s author, Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, pointed out that such use inflates article length.  I know that medical & scientific journals have strict and sometimes severe length criteria.

However, I’m not very impressed by the results displayed in this article.  For one thing, the results provided are based on the proportions of adjectives & adverbs relative to the field with the lowest proportion. So, social sciences had a proportion that was 15% greater than mathematics.  But the author does not provide the actual proportions.  And if you look at the graph (which I’m not legally able to provide here without permission), the differences seem much more substantial.

BTW – I ran his article through a parts-of-speech parser:

1084 words (including title & references)

58 adverbs (5.3%) & 100 adjectives (9.2%), for a total of 14.5%.

Is that high or low – can’t tell.  You can take a look at the article – if you have a subscription.

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This entry was posted on August 29, 2013 by in Publishing and tagged .
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