Nerd Alert! Science CAN be Fun!
Ok, ok, I may be the quintessential geek, but I find science fun and fascinating. I realize that I am by no means alone is feeling this way, but a lot of people can be turned off by the prospect of independently studying science, psychology, medicine, etc., because it can be tough to read. As an editor of scientific journals, I can fully attest to this fact. Even as an educated grammar and vocabulary student, I find myself losing my way when reading through an author’s manuscript.
Take a look at this article.
Upon first read, it sounds like author Rebecca Boyle believes the same thing. Science is tough to read and can be written in a much more enjoyable way. True. But give the article a second, more analytical look. I think Boyle missed the mark on this one.
First, her opening example of a “terrifying experience” well…. isn’t. This example paragraph is smooth and the author clearly defines the terms to be used and the meaning behind them. The author does exactly what Sainani says science students SHOULD do: Write clearly and concisely with a clear point. Done, done, and done.
It worries me that these classes will end up “dumbing down” the science field rather than delivering the complexities of the discipline written in a way that is enjoyable to learn. See what I wrote there…LEARN. Because if you are not well-versed in the jargon of science (as I am not) then it can be possible to learn with a well-written, creative, fun, and interesting manuscript that clearly defines terms and their meanings without losing the importance of scientific jargon.
While Boyle and Sainani do make some good points (passive voice is a NO-NO), I again am drawn to an erroneous example. Sainani’s example to find a clearer, shorter word than “utilize” is a bit confounding. Utilize is a short and clear word and in no way qualifies as “important-sounding jargon.” While I can’t fault Boyle for reporting the facts of programs in the works to assist students in gaining better writing skills, I can lay some responsibility on Sainani and the professors who are using these exercises that are a bit…well…ridiculous.
The bold points given in the article are widely used tips for all writing disciplines, not just scientific writing. These tips are generally learned in middle school or high school. I sincerely hope that the actual programs that Sainani and other professors are hosting do a much better job of conveying how to write science in a fun and interesting way.