12. Scientific writing as contrasted with

English literature and journalese

1. The scientific style is to write clearly and concisely, and to arrange the writing in the following order because this order is rational and well understood by scientists:

a. Abstract
b. Introduction
c. Materials and Methods
d. Results
e. Discussion/ Conclusions
f. References

2. English literature students have another perspective. They are supposed to make their writing attractive, so gripping that readers will want to read to the end. This perhaps means that flow and elegance of expressions are all-important - not clarity and conciseness. So they compose essays aimed to capture the reader's attention by whatever means. One of their tenets is that variance in expression - the use of synonyms - is commendable. However, in scientific writing the use of near-synonyms (as contrasted with absolute synonyms) should be avoided because it may cause confusion. The words species, type, and variety are not synonyms in biology (SECTION 6) although an English literature student may think they are synonyms. Neutral words (having no special meaning in biology) are kind and sort -- they could easily be substituted for what non-biologists call "type" and "variety."
For example, a scientific paper might write about Spodoptera frugiperda in the first sentence and then mention S. frugiperda 20 more times in 2 pages (so the reader is sure what is meant).
But a literature student would not want to use the same expression so many times, and sometimes would write "caterpillars", "this scourge", "the pest", "worms" and a dozen other expressions so that it might be uncertain to most readers what species was being mentioned in many of the sentences - the same species or a related species, or something very different. Furthermore, a literature student probably would avoid using the standard scientific arrangement of items (SEE top of this page) as being "too boring."

3. Journalists write as if their readers have minimal attention span (maybe they are right, in general). They try to present "the most important stuff" in the first paragraph, and then present less-and-less important stuff, so that the last few paragraphs can be chopped off and thrown away if they won't fit the space allotted by their editors. They don't want to take the time to listen carefully to you as you explain "obscure" points (even things that you may think are important) - because they have deadlines to meet and they have made up their minds about what they think is newsworthy. They want NEWS and "human interest stories" right now - not a lecture on use of words in biology - and when they have what they think they need - VROOM! they're gone (SECTION 14: how to talk to journalists).

4. See entry about Bureaucratese (Section 17), which is the antithesis of scientific English.