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American Prospects

Why Are Lists So Irresistible?

December 31, 1969

Yesterday I gave a talk at my grad school alma mater?the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania?about what journalists and scholars can teach each other. Interestingly enough, the academics in attendance all nodded their heads when I went on a little rant about how awful most academic writing is, and made the case that just because it has always been that way it doesn't have to continue to be that way. (Though when I quoted Elaine Benes?"People love interesting writing!"?the students looked at me blankly, obviously having no idea whom I was referring to. Kids today.) The abysmal quality of academic prose is som

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