Pedantic pencils

Before we begin, try to say the following *part* of a sentence in one breath:


“…constructive feature manipulation and untrammled exploratory norm-violation, with the internal, optical consolidation and ‘divergification’ of the bouma or word-form for visual processing as the principal goal, when it comes to text type.”

~ Anonymous


What in the fuck was that?! I am an admitted advocate of plain language (and swears), and I also hope to see more cross collaboration between the fields of typography and cognitive psychology. Specifically, reading comprehension where typography is considered an independent variable. This is what I study. Sadly, most of what I come across in peer-reviewed journals is written by scientists, for scientists. More importantly, much of this research has real-world applications and practical value to the practicing lay-typographer. However, it’s in inaccessible databases, which, even if they did have access to, there’s a strong chance they wouldn’t be able to understand it. A shame to see hundreds of thousands of taxpayer’s dollars and grant money hard at “work.”

Ask a scientist to simplify their language so someone other than their colleagues can understand it, and they’ll turn up their nose. “It’s not possible” they say. “And even if I could, it would be too complicated for you to understand.” I hope I’m not the only one that sees the irony in that statement . For some reason, <cough>ego</cough>, the offending scientist feels that simplifying their language will make them look less intelligent in front of their peers (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Boyz in da club.


Little do they know, largely due to a lack of effort on their part, communicating complex ideas to a broad audience is far more difficult than than sharing them with another specialist. Something my Father once taught me. I pride myself on my ability to explain my research to a stranger, outside of the pub, in less time than it takes us to smoke a cigarette. And that’s after three pints. Each.

My point is, if you feel you have something important to say, say it so as many people as possible can understand it. Place your years of knowledge acquisition, skills training, and my money in their hands. Empower them. Do you want to influence change, or do you simply like the sound of your own voice?

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