When we academics were in graduate school, we were trained to write badly (no one put it this way of course) because every time we wrote X, our teacher always commented, “But have you considered Y? Don’t you see that Y completely contradicts what you write here.” “Have you considered” is the favorite knee-jerk response of academics to any idea. As a result, we learn as students to clog up our writing with added clauses and phrases to keep them from being attacked. In a sense (a scary sense), our syntactic goal is create sentences that take a form something like this:
X, and yet on the other hand Y, yet nevertheless X in certain respects, while at the same time Y in other respects.
And we make the prose lumpier still by inserting references to all the published scholars — those who said X, those who argued for Y, those who said X is valid in this sense, those who said Y is valid in this other sense.
Elbow goes on to say that even strong, confident academic writers "interrupt themselves" with opposing arguments in this way. Overall, he says, "I want to celebrate the mental ability to feel the truth in conflicting ideas."
My first thought: John Keats, you were right! "The concept of Negative Capability is the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems."
Second thought: Elbow is right, but I want him to say more (to which any sensible person would say "buy the book, then"). What about academic jargon and theory-speak?
That's a difficult proposition, taking on the jargon question, because here's the basic debate if anyone brings up the issue:
Scholar A: "Why do you use so much jargon?"
Scholar B: "It is not jargon! These words are an indispensable set of terms that serve as shorthand for difficult conceptual ideas and theoretical systems. Sometimes those terms don't cover it, so I have to invent my own and use them without defining them."
Scholar A: "I'm asking why you use ridiculously obfuscatory language to mystify readers when your concepts are really pretty simple and not all that novel."
Scholar B: "You're just too stupid to understand my Complex Ideas."
Scholar A: "Am not!"
Scholar B: "Are too!"