3

In many cases the words via and through are interchangeable. However, is via viewed as acceptable to use among the academic community, typically?

I personally have a distaste for it, but that doesn't really mean much.

closed as off-topic by Morgan Rodgers, Jon Custer, Ben, Buzz, Azor Ahai Jan 22 at 22:24

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 6
    This is more a question of English language than of academic writing. – yo' Nov 22 '14 at 22:01
  • 3
    @tohecz No, it's specifically about using the word in academic writings. – fredsbend Nov 22 '14 at 22:11
  • 22
    That assumes that academic writing for some reason is not the same as good English writing, a common, unfortunate opinion also held by some academics. – gnometorule Nov 22 '14 at 22:30
  • 3
    @gnometorule It assumes reality, that one should change their writing style based upon their intended audience. The paper I am writing is for a professor, a professional in academia. I care what he might want to see, not what is necessarily "good English writing" by some objective standard, if that can even exist. – fredsbend Nov 22 '14 at 22:33
  • 3
    @JamaIS: One less letter can save a line. One less line can save a column. One less column can save a page. One less page can bring a paper down to an allowable length. – O. R. Mapper Jul 18 '15 at 8:11
21

There is nothing wrong with the word "via," and in fact I personally have a weakness for it: sometimes it just feels more elegant and specific than alternatives like "through" or "by means of." I also, however, have a weakness for a lot of somewhat archaic phrases, due to spending a lot of my childhood reading old books.

The general principle which I think academic writing should subscribe to is Orwell's notion of "transparent prose," in which the words are as clear as a window, letting one through to the ideas with minimal obstruction. Using too many unusual words, such as a lot of "via" and "thus" can be distracting, particularly for an international audience. Sometimes, though, a word is simply fit and elegant in its context, and there is no reason to avoid using it.

  • 7
    Although I agree with the principle, I want to point out that "via" is latin, not unique to English, and perhaps not so generally "distracting [...] for an international audience" – Peter Jansson Nov 23 '14 at 18:55
  • 1
    @PeterJansson Assuming you're dealing with Romance or Germanic languages, yes... not so much for Slavic, Dravidian, or Indo-Aryan languages, not Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc... – jakebeal Nov 23 '14 at 19:26
  • I'm giving you the selection because of your description of "transparent prose". Let one through to the ideas with minimal obstruction. Essentially, communicate effectively and little stuff like this tends to resolve itself. – fredsbend Jul 17 '15 at 21:32
12

I am skeptical that the [anglophone] academic community as a whole has clear preferences on word choices beyond what is considered good English usage. Specific academic fields and communities of academics certainly do have preferred and deprecated word choices (and these choices are not necessarily viewed positively by the larger world: cf. "jargon").

Might some particular professor like one word more than another? Of course, but that is just about the ne plus ultra of a question which is "too localized" to be useful on a site like this one. Moreover, even if she likes "through" better than "via" or vice versa: so what? Is she going to think less of your academic essay because of it? That would be most unreasonable.

Having said all that: the words "via" and "through" are not fully synonymous: see this question on another SE site for a good discussion. As the answers indicate, "through" is the much older word in English usage and has a much larger range of uses. The word "via" is much more specific: it means by way of; by the route which passes through or over (a specified place) or by means of, with the aid of. In academic writing one often wants to express that two things (concepts, ideas, problems...) can be related to each other by means of a third thing. Given that the word via has as its origin a Roman road connecting point A to point B, this usage is very appropriate for making such connections. In spoken language, "via" is somewhat uncommon and may perhaps be viewed as stilted or pretentious. In academic writing it is extremely common and unobtrusive (when used appropriately): the eye passes right over it. The idea that this particular word would be objectionable to an academic is especially strange to me. (There are a lot of words like this: in my academic writing I use "thus" and "hence" all the time; in nonacademic speech, not at all.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.