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How To Write Like A Scientist

Adam Ruben presents funny yet true rules on writing like a scientist:

We’re taught that scientific journal articles are just plain different from all other writing. They’re not written in English per se; they’re written in a minimalist English intended merely to convey numbers and graphs. As such, they have their own rules.

In other words, we scientists often write dry, soulless, weirdly-worded reports. I honestly hate reading and writing journal articles for this very reason. Seriously, there are times I would rather jab my eye with a ball-point pen than read a scientific paper - including (and perhaps especially) those I’ve written.

Ruben concludes with perspective and inspiration for scientists:

But there’s a reason scientific journal articles tend to be dry, and it’s because we’re writing them that way. We hope that the data constitutes an interesting story all by itself, but we all know it usually doesn’t. It needs us, the people who understand its depth and charm, to frame it and explain it in interesting ways.

This is, in fact, one of the most appealing aspects of science: We’re more than just the people who push the pipette buttons. We’re advocates who get to construct and tell the stories about our science.

I’m going to try and keep that in mind as I write my dissertation and any future publications. Though in fairness, there’s only so much I can do with a subject like turbulence. If only I studied tornados.

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