Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Writing Scientific English

Writing is usually an exercise in maintaining clarity. Often being concise or brief is extolled. This is not the case with Scientific English. Newcomers to the field often don't comprehend that the objectives of writing good Scientific English have little to do with communication. Let's look at common reasons for writing Scientific English.

  1. To be published without embarrassing questions on the content of the article
  2. Because the boss wants his name on a paper
  3. To get a raise
  4. As an ego boost (see to be published)
  5. To keep others scientists, reporters, the general public outside the field
  6. To further Science (I put it in to be fair)

An Excellent Example of How Scientific English Can Be Used to Confound and Bewilder

Read the paragraph below and render this into common English:

In the course of a 24 hour period it often behoves one to locomote in three dimensional space where it is not proscribed but is on limited access. These aforementioned regions are wontedly circumscribed by devices that inherently consist of either processed plant matter, modified petrochemicals, any of a large class of materials with highly variable mechanical and optical properties that solidify from the molten state without crystallization , are typically made by silicates fusing with boric oxide, aluminium oxide, or phosphorus pentoxide, or various metals. The form or accepted mode verges on a one meter span, a two meter elevation and a profundity that is exceedingly variable but usually is limited to 3 to 6 centimetres. It has been said that * use of these contrivances is fundamentally rudimental with no or non complexity the norm. With an extension either of the prehensile appendages that are attached to one's torso one simply seizes the protuberance that extends for the surface of these devices and rotate the aforementioned protrusion either clockwise or anti-clockwise then one either thrusts forward or draws toward oneself the device and therefore initiating the breach which allows one to continue to perambulate.

(* Notice the use of passive voice. This allows the researcher to avoid making a statement that could be attributed to his or her self thus evading any blame later. In this instance the reader does not ask the question who said, he or she assumes that large numbers of scientists did because the passive voice was used. A consensus is implied. Use of the passive voice was severely restricted in this example of Scientific English. Normally 80% of all Scientific papers are in passive voice.)

The Explanation

The instructions are nothing more than how to use a door with a doorknob. During the day you often have to open doors. But it is written in mumbo jumbo so it takes quite a lot of guessing to understand. The plain version reads as:

Stick your hand out. Turn the knob clockwise or anticlockwise. Push or pull.