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Why academics can’t write

Attack of the meaningless nouns

By Michael Billig  

Keeping language simple. photo credit: Pat Dunachie

A couple or so years ago, the university where I teach introduced a new way for staff to record information about tutorials, grandly calling it the “Co-Tutor Student Management Relationship System.” The name possesses the linguistic features that appeal to managers today: nouns strung together without intervening prepositions, with some of the nouns conveying generally desirable qualities (“relationship,” “system”). Despite its pomposity the name is vague: it doesn’t tell you what sorts of relationships are being systematically managed or…

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