Writing for Impact Week: follow-up 6

Thanks for grappling with my situation in Japan; you are right that most Japanese HEIs can manage successfully if you mean at the administrative level, which is certainly done only in Japanese. I’d like to investigate this sentence of yours;

“While I do agree that the idea that scholarly writing involves reconceptualising one’s identity and becoming comfortable with uncertainty, I personally feel that the intent, context and content is probably more [important] than the medium of language” (Xu, 2016)

I agree with you that the medium of language is of lesser importance than the content of the message. However, in the context of a masterclass on writing for impact, I will make the argument that the style of writing may have more impact than the content in many cases. Additionally, the notion of a scholarly identity may not be cleanly separable from the language associated with it. In other words, writing with impact may be a result of style and identity more than of content. The Sokal affair (Johnson, 2016) is probably the most famous of scientific bogus articles, a genre of work that aims to expose the inadequacies of the peer-review system. Briefly, a scientist creates a fake article using scholarly writing techniques but which is devoid of propositional meaning. This article is submitted for peer-review, and in the Sokal affair, Sokal’s ‘article’ was revealed as a hoax in a different journal on the same day as its official publication. The affair highlights many issues involved in academic writing, but here I want to draw upon only the aspect of substance-less style.

This example is an extreme one, of course. However, even in composing this forum post, I was highly conscious of my lexical selection criteria; for example, I ‘didn’t just choose words’, I ‘selected lexis using a criteria’. Give me a few glasses of red wine, and you will have the clearest example of self-authorship possible! Seriously, I do suspect that it behoves scholars to consider their style at least at the same time as their message because, following Vygotsky, writing is thinking, and separating meaning from style is not as concrete as it may appear.


Johnson, E. (2016). Physicist Publishes a Deliberately Fraudulent Article. Salem Press Encyclopedia

Xu, F. (2016, July 3). Re: Discussion question. Message posted to https://elearning.uol.ohecampus.com/webapps/discussionboard

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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