One of the many perks of Reanna reading my assignments to me is that I get her editorial critiques of the writing. Academic writing is mostly bad writing, as I’ve been ranting about off and on. Bad writing can be entertaining, though, if it is read to you by a very smart editor like Reanna. Here is one example, Reanna reading Martin Erickson’s critique of the family life cycle theory:

Reanna, reading Erickson: “Perhaps the problems a family is experiencing may have little to do with the family’s deficient ability to negotiate transitions of the FLC but may rather indicate the family’s attempts at creative production and new arrangements that may be a difficult transition into which it may be difficult for a family to adjust. There are many implications of NAT in regard to family therapists. It is hoped that this discussion will spur more in-depth theorizing and research in regard to these issues and provide family therapists with a different way of conceptualizing with which they currently work….”

Reanna, aside: “It is hoped…not by the author necessarily, but, you know, it is hoped.”

Hilarious! Erickson is probably worth reading for any family therapist, but especially so with the added commentary.

The phrase she picked out is a violation of Strunk & White’s Elementary Principle of Composition #14, the most common form of bad writing in academia. For those of you unfamiliar with Strunk & White, get the book The Elements of Style. It’s funny, spot on, and very useful. Here’s the beginning of principle #14:

14. Use the active voice.

The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:

I shall always remember my first trip to Boston.

This is much better than

My first trip to Boston will always be remembered by me.

The latter sentence is less direct, less bold, and less concise. If the writer tries to make it more concise by omitting “by me,”

My first trip to Boston will always be remembered,

it becomes indefinite: is it the writer or some person undisclosed or the world at large that will always remember this visit?