scientific writing

Judith Gibber jrg43 at columbia.edu
Mon Feb 24 22:18:32 EST 1997


On 24 Feb 1997, muriel lederman wrote:

> I respond to Nina Dudnik's post -
> 
> Basically, you're right. The fault lies with the editors of the journals.
   <etc.>

	The fault, dear Muriel, 
	lies not with the editors, 
	but with ourselves, 
	that we are unintelligible...

Learning to write isn't part of the curriculum in most science
departments.  When I told my Physiology students that they'd have to 
write a paper this semester they were not upset so much as surprised.
"In a science course???"  Wait till I tell them that spelling
counts...


Some of my favorite quotes on this topic:

On unnecessary verbiage:   
"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from 
giving us wordy evidence of this fact."
					George Eliot

On long-winded sentences:
"The conjunction 'and' commonly serves to indicate that the 
writer's mind still functions even when no signs of the 
phenomenon are noticeable."
					Rudolf Virchow

On writing simply:
"I would never use a long word where a short one would answer
the purpose.  I know there are professors in this country 
who 'ligate' arteries.  Other surgeons tie them, and it stops
the bleeding just as well."
					Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


On using the first person:
"Never say 'we found' when you mean 'I found'.  The use of the
word 'we' (for 'I') should be reserved for monarchs, editors, 
and pregnant women."		
					Robert Barass
					"Scientists Must Write"

On revisions:
"In my writing, I average about ten pages a day.  Unfortunately,
they're all the same page."
					Michael Alley
					"The Craft of Scientific Writing"




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