Nigel A. Caplan

Jan 26, 2022

Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers

Second Edition

University of Michigan Press 2019

Listen to this interview of Nigel Caplan, author of Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers (U Michigan Press, 2019) and Associate Professor at the English Language Institute, University of Delaware. We talk generically.

Nigel Caplan : "And this sort of brings us to an important point about knowledge and expertise in a discipline. The great genre scholar Doreen Starke-Meyerring said that academic writing tends to be transparent to experts in the discipline, and they forget how opaque it is to novices. So, if you study engineering, biology, philosophy, whatever it is, and you're immersed in that world all the time, it's very easy to believe that that is the only way of writing, because that's the only type of writing you have done for decades. And it quickly becomes, 'Well, that's obviously good writing.' And the idea is, 'Anything else is bad writing.' But experts don't realize what we see as English teachers, especially as teachers in English for Academic Purposes, where we work with students across the disciplines — what we see is that each discipline does have its own way of creating knowledge and communicating that knowledge. But that can be very opaque to a novice. And I think what novices need are the tools to crack open that opacity, and what experts need is a little reminder now and then that good writing is actually not transparent. It is highly contextual, it is something that needs to be learned, it is not natural in any sense. It is not automatically good writing just because you like it and it works in your field."

Visit the Michigan Series in English for Academic and Professional Purposes here. Visit and join the Consortium on Graduate Communication here.

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