Scholars in the softer fields spout obscure verbiage to hide the fact that they have nothing to say. They dress up the trivial and obvious with the trappings of scientific sophistication, hoping to bamboozle their audiences with highfalutin gobbledygook (Pinker, 2014).
Most academic writing, in contrast, is a blend of two styles. The first is practical style, in which the writer’s goal is to satisfy a reader’s need for a particular kind of information. The second is a style that Thomas and Turner call self-conscious, relativistic, ironic, or postmodern, in which “the writer’s chief, if unstated,
concern is to escape being convicted of philosophical naïveté about his own enterprise.”
It’s easy to see why academics fall into self-conscious style. Their goal is not so much communication as self-presentation—an overriding defensiveness against any impression that they may be slacker than their peers in hewing to the norms of the guild.