Scientific Writing

In my opinion, scientific writing is often poor. All too often, when I try to read a paper, I find myself having to re-read sentences or paragraphs before I finally understand the meaning. Much of the time, I can figure out ways to say the important points in fewer words with better structure. Of course, it’s always easy to do this to someone else’s writing. I also find similar mistakes in my own writing when I go back to revise.

I think that one of the big problems is that bad writing is accepted (in science fields). For example, it almost seems expected that scientific papers are written in the passive voice. I, for one, find this to decrease readability. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and wondering what I can do to improve it. I am working on developing a workshop for scientific writing that will address this. [2011 update: there is now a website at Duke hosting my scientific writing workshop]