A detailed guide to English usage, with a particular focus on discouraging academic writers from unnecessary jargon.
Romero (A Soldier’s Story, 2008) offers a comprehensive reference guide to academic writing. Arranged in alphabetical order, the book provides definitions and explains the subtle differences in meaning that allow authors to write fluently. Take, for example, his explanation of synonyms for animal: “When the word is applied to a human being in other than a scientific context, the emphasis is on depravity or amorality. Creature does not have this range of possibility in meaning; it refers invariably to all living beings other than plants. When a human being is referred to by this word, however, pity or contempt is usually present.” Many of the book’s recommendations are couched in no-nonsense terms: “Avoid ablative as a big word that impresses no one.” Romero is particularly adamant about encouraging writers to cut words that add length without enhancing meaning: “A proposal is a plan put forward for consideration or discussion by others. It is also an offer of marriage. As in both cases, they must be real or solid. To put concrete, (sic) therefore to precede proposals is redundant.” Other entries in the lexicon clarify easily confused terms (“He is an ingenious inventor, but disingenuous in his relations”) and spellings (“ ‘Please pass the saccharin,’ she said with a saccharine smile”). A thorough index guides readers through the book’s many cross-references. Occasionally, a suggestion seems unnecessary for contemporary writers; it is unlikely, for instance, that modern academics need to be told to “CHANGE We have some negro students. TO We have some black students.” Such items may be of little use to institutions in the United States, but on the whole, the book can serve as a valuable addition to a writer’s bookshelf.
Much-needed guidance for academics looking to strip their writing of unnecessary words and awkward usage.