The Science of Scientific Writing

If the reader is to grasp what the writer means, the writer must understand what the reader needs

Science is often hard to read. Most people assume that its difficulties are born out of necessity, out of the extreme complexity of scientific concepts, data and analysis. We argue here that complexity of thought need not lead to impenetrability of expression; we demonstrate a number of rhetorical principles that can produce clarity in communication without oversimplifying scientific issues. The results are substantive, not merely cosmetic: Improving the quality of writing actually improves the quality of thought.

By George Gopen and Judith Swan.
This article was originally published in the November-December 1990 issue of American Scientist.