Source: Warren Nooshin L., Matthew Farmer, Tianyu Gu, Caleb Warren, “Marketing Ideas: How to Write Research Articles that Readers Understand and Cite,” Journal of Marketing.
Do you want your research to make an impact? If so, readers will need to understand your writing. Unfortunately, most academic writing is difficult to understand. Worse yet, most scholars don’t realize when their writing is unclear. As scholars, we suffer from a “curse of knowledge,” which prevents us from realizing that readers do not understand our research as well as we do.
Knowledge, or familiarity with our own research, prompts three practices that make academic writing difficult to understand: abstraction, technical language, and passive writing. Instead of describing “spilled coffee” and “one-star Yelp reviews,” we discuss “expectation-disconfirmation” and “post-purchase behavior.” Instead of writing “We studied how liberal and conservative consumers respond when brands post polarizing messages on social media,” we write, “The interactive effects of ideological orientation and corporate sociopolitical activism on owned media engagement were studied.”
When our writing is abstract, technical, and passive, readers struggle to understand it. And when readers don’t understand our article, they are unlikely to read it, much less absorb it and be influenced by its ideas.
Fortunately, we can overcome the curse of knowledge by knowing how and when to rely on abstraction, technical, and passive writing. To that end, our research led us to develop two tools—a website (writingclaritycalculator.com) and a tutorial (Web Appendix B in the paper)—to help scholars recognize and repair unclear writing so their research can make a larger impact in the marketplace of ideas.
Website Description: http://writingclaritycalculator.com/
To use the website:
- Copy and paste all or a section of your writing into the text box.
- The bots on this site will analyze the text and tell you:
- how concrete your writing is (on a scale from 1 to 5)
- how many examples you included per page (assuming 844 words per page)
- how frequently the words you use appear on the internet (relative to “the”, the most frequently used word on the internet)
- the percentage of your sentences that use active voice.
- For details on how we calculated these scores, see our published paper.
The website will also tell you how your writing compares to the articles published in premier marketing journals between 2000 and 2010. The website will compare your writing to (a) the front-end of published articles (text before the method section), and (b) the entire text of the published articles (including the references).
The website uses Python 3.7 (https://www.python.org/) as the programming language, Flask (https://palletsprojects.com/p/flask/) as the web framework, and Gunicorn (https://gunicorn.org/) as the http server. It is hosted on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (https://aws.amazon.com/ec2/) and the platform is 64-bit Amazon Linux 2 (https://aws.amazon.com/mp/linux/).
Web Appendix B
We created a tutorial to help scholars learn (a) how to recognize abstract, technical, and passive writing, (b) why and when to use these practices, and (c) how to avoid overusing them.