Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

David Galef

Committee Member

Laura Jones

Committee Member

Caroline Dadas


Since the birth of the plain language movement forty years ago, proponents of plain language have seen a considerable uptick in plain language advocacy, use, legislation, and regulation within government, legal, and business organizations. Those who have adopted this style believe that its most important benefits include increased clarity, ease of both reading and writing, and accessibility. In spite of these benefits, one field that has not yet embraced plain language is academia—a field that, as many have argued, could benefit from adopting a plainer writing style in order to make academic texts more accessible. The uncertainty about plain language’s place, specifically in the postsecondary academy, is at the center of a heated debate about language use in general, and calls into question whether the existence of inflated, obfuscatory academic language—known as academese—is as problematic as some make it out to be.

The three chapters of this thesis cover plain language’s history and its definitions, the debate about academese, and concepts from cognitive psychology that provide deeper insight into perceptions about language use in the postsecondary academy from a student point of view. What emerges from synthesizing these components is that these two language extremes constitute opposite poles of a spectrum of writing styles that can be used successfully in academic context.

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