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STYLES IN

SCIENTIFIC
WRITING
Nicanor Legarte Guinto

Faculty, Dept. of Languages,


Literature and Humanities
College of Arts and Sciences
Southern Luzon State University
A Note on Scientific
Style
 Proper words in proper places, make the
true definition of a style. – Jonathan
Swift
 Styles heavily depend on writer’s choice.
 Scientific writing has long been accused
of lacking style.
 “Every profession has its growing arsenal
of jargon to tire at the layman and hurl
him back from its walls,” - William
Zinsser.
A Note on Scientific
Style
 The best scientific writing is
characterized by brevity, clarity,
and precision.
 Scientific findings must be
translated into comprehensible
language.
 Scientists are sometimes delighted
by the fact that their jargon
renders their field
incomprehensible to outsiders.

A Note on Scientific
Style
 It is the writer’s art to
arrange words that
they shall suffer the
least possible
retardation from the
inevitable friction of the
reader’s mind. –
George Henry Lewes

Language
 Stay as close as possible to plain
language.
 Use simple words to effectively
communicate your message.
 Instead of saying: say:
 facilitate ease
 numerous many
 remainder rest
Language
 Instead of saying: say:
 implement do
 sufficient enough
 commence begin
 visualize foresee
 veritable true
 initial first
Language
 Avoid excessive verbiage.
 Instead of saying: say:
 in order to to
 for the purpose of to
 for the reason that because, since
 it is often the case that often
 it is possible the reason may be
 the reason may be
 it will be seen from examination
 of Figure 6 . . . Figure 6 shows . . .
 Eloquent writers would say:
“God, in the magnificent fullness of
creative energy, exclaimed: Let there be
light! and lo! the agitating fiat immediately
went forth, and thus in one indivisible
moment the whole universe was illumined.”

 When in fact, it can be simply told:


“God said: Let there be light! and there was
light.”



Tense
 Past tense is generally used in scientific
writing.
 Other cases requiring the use of past
tense include:
Referring to previous studies
Description of procedures
Statement of results
Tense
 Present tense is used when there is a
need to express continuity and/ or
general applicability.
 It is also used in the following cases:
Defining
○ E.g. – Nursing is a profession that
requires patience and hard work.
Stating a well-defined theory
○ E.g. – Hand washing is a must for
healthcare practitioners.
Tense
Interpreting a table or figure
○ E.g. – Table 1 shows…
Stating a hypothesis
○ E.g. – There is no significant difference
between…
 Universal truths should be expressed in
the present tense.
WRONG: He taught us that hand washing
was a must.
RIGHT: He taught us that hand washing is
a must.

Tense
 Analyze this example:
 I climbed out of the car, walked
through the door, and prepared to meet “the
parents,” but instead a large, honey-colored
dog runs to meet me at the door.

 Avoid shifting tenses.
Person and Voice
 Technical documents are usually
written in the third person.
 Second person is never used.
 First person is used only when it
genuinely means that the author
and his associates actually acted.
 Constant use of the first person is not
advisable, since it may distract the
reader from the subject of the
paper.
Person and Voice
 Use of the passive voice has been a
strong tradition in scientific writing.
 This practice recently has given way to a
more direct writing – active voice.
 Analyze the following examples:
I removed the catheter after the urine was
drained. (First Person, Active Voice)
The catheter was removed after the urine
was drained. (Third Person, Passive
Voice)
Gender
 Promote gender sensitivity.
 As much as possible avoid the use of
his/her pronoun couplet.
 Analyze the following examples:
AWKWARD: Each patient was asked to
administer his/her medication at a specified
time.
BETTER: Each patient was asked to
administer the medication at a specified
time.
OR: The medication was administered by
each patient at a specified time.
Checklist for Gender
Revisions
 Have you used "man" or "men" or words
containing one of them to refer to
people who may be female?
 If you have mentioned someone's gender,
was it necessary to do so?
 Do you use any occupational stereotypes?
 Do you use language that in any way
shows a lack of respect for either sex?
 Have you used "he," "him," "his," or
"himself" to refer to people who may be
female?
Six Rules in Scientific
Writing
1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of
speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the
active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a
jargon word if you can think of an everyday
English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything
outright barbarous.
 - George Orwell
 Politics and the English Language
References
 Aaronson, S. (1977). “Style in Scientific
Writing”. In Essays of an information
scientist, 3 (pp.4-13).
 Burke, H. R. (2000). Manual of style for
naval air warfare center training
systems division technical publication,
[Manual]. USA: NWCTSD.
 University of North Carolina. (2007).
Gender sensitive language. Date
retrieved: December 1, 2010 from
http://
www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/gender.h