Scientific Writing (1)

The Opinion by Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon1 was an excellent article. In general, I find that natural scientists write more clearly and concisely than most other professionals. Their subject matter and their highly critical audience demand clear thinking, which is the beginning (although not the whole) of clear writing. Also, as the authors imply, the present standard formats for scientific papers have become established by a kind of natural selection, because they serve their purpose we

James Bakalar
Jan 23, 2000

The Opinion by Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon1 was an excellent article. In general, I find that natural scientists write more clearly and concisely than most other professionals. Their subject matter and their highly critical audience demand clear thinking, which is the beginning (although not the whole) of clear writing.

Also, as the authors imply, the present standard formats for scientific papers have become established by a kind of natural selection, because they serve their purpose well. If understanding is difficult, that is usually because the topic is complicated or requires specialized knowledge. When scientific jargon is borrowed or a scientific style imitated (as is often in the social sciences, and now, alas, in literary theory) without the content, unnecessary obscurity results.

Cogency and clarity are not the same as gracefulness, and Medawar is right if he means that many scientists could make life easier for their...

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