"Glossomania," or excessive citation. Yes, we know you've been to the library, or at least Google, but sometimes it's too much of a boring thing. Or more likely masking insecurity in a fog of citation. Or simply being lazy. . . .
Indirection. Some journal articles suffer from being excessively roundabout, taking longer to get to the point than Henry James. A common habit in literary articles is to start with a quotation or a description of a literary scene. Sometimes, as in Stephen Greenblatt's essays, that can be a brilliant device, but it is sorely overused and often a false start, the real point being on page 5. Or the main points are buried, in the middle of a paragraph on page 12. . . .
False difficulty. A common expression in the humanities is that an author "complicates" a topic. That is another academic habit of overcompensation, much like excessive citation. Shouldn't our goal be explanation rather than complication?
Of course not everything can be simple, and difficulty might go with the territory. But the reverse does not follow: A torturous explanation does not indicate difficult thought; it usually only indicates bad writing, its faux difficulty presuming its faux profundity. Think of Wittgenstein: He presents us with nubs that gnaw at us, but his sentences run clear. . . .
Another glitch is announcing or narrating what you are doing, in phrases like "I would like to argue." Such meta-comments might aid in moments of physical intimacy but are usually unnecessary during an essay. Just argue it!
And then there are a slew of phrases that should henceforth be banned. "Always already" was once striking, but that was in 1972 and it's now a cliché. "Cutting edge" is a phrase that is anything but cutting edge. "Problematic" is just clunky, and actually what people probably mean is "troublesome" or "contradictory." . . .
What's interesting about this is that he actually puts into writing some of the moral absolutes that go unspoken in scholarly prose: to "complicate" something is always good, as in "unlike those poor fools who wrote about this so simplistically before." To accuse someone of "essentializing"--well, them's fightin' words.
I'm not necessarily crazy about "I would like to argue," but to me it does serve a useful purpose; in essays when it's used, usually the author is saying something like this: "I'm done with the introductory fluff and the obligatory citing of every article under the sun. Sit up, now, and pay attention; here comes my thesis." In that way, it can be a good signal to the reader, especially if the article is one that you're skimming to see if it's worth reading later.
I know, I know, we've heard some of this before--but being reminded of what to do, as Williams does, can't hurt.