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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some Common Mistakes

A few problems I've come upon recently in reviewing articles.

(1) Vague humanist language: "issues facing humankind"; "the human condition"; "dilemmas of life." Over-enthusiastic, gushing belletristic rhetoric about how wonderful this particular poet is.

(2) Close reading that is painstaking, fussy, plodding, but not really deep; belaboring the obvious. I like to distinguish between close reading and deep reading.

(3) No critical voice; excessive dependence on what the sources say. Citing sources for obvious points of common knowledge, or choosing banal quotes from other critics. A lack of critical authority.

(4) A theoretical framework that doesn't add anything: the reading would be the same in the absence of the framework. Wikipedia-like summaries of theoretical ideas. Citing Foucault for Foucault's most cliché idea about power.

(5) Bad writing by (someone I presume to be) a non-native speaker of English. The person should have checked their writing with a native speaker who is also a good writer.

(6) Citing dictionary definitions of common words. (Always a bush-league move. Very high-school.)

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