“Biting the Bullet”: A Note on Style from Caspar Hare


In his 2013 book, The Limits of Kindness, Caspar Hare (MIT) includes a brief “stylistic note” that gets across an important lesson for academic writers: don’t overestimate the familiarity of your readers with specialist terminology—even when the intended readers are others in your discipline.

Such terminology may be unusual words or purpose-built neologisms, but may also just be a technical way of using or putting together ordinary words. You may want to avoid using them or be sure to explain them when you do.

Professor Hare’s example is “biting the bullet”:

I agree that “these small gaps in understanding are more common than we normally think.” Your examples of other terms or phrases subject to such gaps would be welcome.

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