Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use. (Hemingway)
I want to be a computational social scientist. Not all aspects of my work are subject to simplification. In some cases, the right mathematical or computational abstraction expresses an idea perfectly. It's almost magical. And, some branches of knowledge really are unreachable without abstraction. That is why we painstakingly learn to think with and manipulate these abstractions. It's not (always) fun. But, it is the price of admission.
In formal academia, writing papers and submitting them to journals is also part of being a scientist (TM). These papers are constraining in many ways, mostly because of how the journals work. Sometimes, constraints are liberating. But, I've started to question one particular constraint -- the academic style of writing. What happened? When I finished my previous 'final' draft proposal, I sent it to my father. A few days later, he told me he couldn't read it. It was "above his head." This made me proud.
I can think of no better evidence of blossoming and malignant pretension.
Confronted with this sudden recognition, I quickly tried to craft a shield of denial. Academic writing style is not merely our register. It's not something adopted just to announce, "I belong here!" Academic writing helps us compress ideas, just like the abstractions I mentioned. If I am writing for experts, I know that I can use a particular word to convey a lot of information. For example, take the word 'metastability'. The right audience will immediately and deeply understand what I am talking about if I use it. It's a concept with a lot of tendrils. It is writing with both clarity and economy. That's valuable. But, it comes at a cost. It puts my work out-of-bounds for many people. And, it's not like the experts do not understand the simplifications.
Recognizing this, I felt foolish. In literature, I care about the author's ability to pull me into her story. I don't see vocabulary or grammar. In programming, the code I most admire reads like a conversation. I don't see syntax. When learning, the guides I enjoy the most strive to be accessible, descending into complexity only if it is vital. It doesn't feel like effort. That is, in general, accessibility is a virtue. Yet, somehow, when writing academically, I don't remember any of this. Why?
Because, in those things, my ego is not attached.
At some point in my education, I was told, "this is very well-written." It was a nice complement to receive. I was proud. And, I realized I could repeat that procedure -- I could get the dopamine hit of praise again and again. I learned to seek it out. This lead me to care too much about how I say things. And, relatively, it made me care too little about what I was saying. The envelope mattered more than the message.
Yet, the consequences of this training were not limited to how I wrote. I started to evaluate other people's work on the basis of how well-written it was. But, again, well-written here just means it conforms with academic writing. Mostly, that means it is dense and uses the most novel or complicated word or phrase, even when a simplification exists. That's worse than merely changing my writing style. It affects how I process information. It's a source of bias.
This bias in evaluation reinforces my desire to write in an inaccessible fashion. I am (subconsciously) coping with a nagging yet unrecognized insecurity. I spend excessive amounts of time on my own writing, because I am worried other people won't pay attention to my actual arguments otherwise. So, my writing is not pretentious -- it's ornamental. And, it's ironic! I'm afraid people won't notice my research with unadorned language; but, in spending more time on that ornament, my research suffers!
I suspect every academic feels this way at some point. I'm not sure how to resolve this dilemma. For now, I'm just adopting a simple heuristic: Can my father, an otherwise smart man, understand what I am saying.
Time for me to relearn how to write.
 I'm still not sure I want to be part of that world. At least in the social sciences, I think academics are documentarians. (Or, they are the librarians in The Foundation Series. Asmiov continues to inspire me.) I'd rather be building stuff with the explicit and active goal of changing things. Knowledge is a means, not an end.
 There may be a correlation between well-written and Truth revealing. But, at best, it's a fallible heuristic. The most obvious source of error: people for whom English is a second language!
P.S. I'm going to throw my laptop out the window if one person brings up the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis or the effect of affectively-charged words on concept accessibility in associative memory.