Dana Explains Why American Professors Prefer Straightforward Essays

by Guest Post - Posts (70). Posted Friday, October 26th, 2012 at 10:31 am

In response to Sunny’s observation that American professors expect you to be very explicit in your writing, and that you must fully explain all of your assumptions and arguments (she says her TA advised her to “treat the professors like idiots” in her essays), commenter Dana suggests:

It is precisely because they *do* apply critical thinking skills to what they read that most Americans tend to prefer that writing be more direct and thoroughly expository, and not dependent on the reader bringing anything to it but an open mind.

Americans are culturally predisposed to be skeptical of non-fiction writing- especially journalism- that takes anything but a very straightforward and objective approach, and many of America’s best loved and most representative fiction writers like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck are known for their masterful ability to use very simple and honest prose to present very complex ideas .

To use a common American phrase, they “tell it like it is” and in the end still require the reader to interpret what the intended message is…but Americans want to do that after getting all the facts in as plain and unvarnished a manner as they can, and tend to see any room left for interpretation in the original presentation as something to be concerned about, since that kind of vagueness is often used to justify all manner of tricks and scams.

We are at out core a nation of frontier dwelling pioneers, and people like that are generally not impressed by anything but straight talk and direct action and as a practical matter cannot afford to be hornswoggled or bamboozled by fancy talk.

Have you come across any examples where cultural differences led to differences in academic style?  Have you ever had to change your writing or learning style in a new country? Tell us about it below or in the comments!

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