1. Language and style
Aim to Inform
Scientific or technical writing is different from literary writing in a number of ways. Primarily, the aim of technical writing is to inform rather than to entertain. Hence, the style of writing adopted is generally simple and concise.
|An example of a literary sentence||The wind was blowing fiercely and the air outside was growing chilled.|
|An example of a scientific sentence||Onshore winds travelling at 45km per hour brought temperatures down to 15 degrees Celsius.|
As informing an audience is the primary aim of the scientific writer, emotive language is avoided. The scientific writer should try to transmit information as objectively as possible.
Avoid too many long sentences. Sentences with four or more clauses, or parts, are confusing to read. Your text will probably read better if you consider making two sentences rather than one long sentence. If you want to include a qualification or an example then a long sentence is usually appropriate.
|An example of a long sentence||After consulting three manufacturers: Dribble Co., Sooky Ltd. and Bungle Pty, we have found that there are two types of vibration suppression devices for portable CD players and both are simple in design but have inherent drawbacks.|
|More concise sentence||Three manufacturers were consulted: Dribble and Co., Sooky Ltd. and Bungle Pty. We found two types of vibration suppression devices for portable CD players. Both are simple in design but have inherent drawbacks.|
Use words and expressions economically. If you can use one word instead of two or three, then chose the one word (get around = avoid).
Avoid being unclear and ambiguous. This can happen when you do not specify what you are writing about and can even depend how you use words like 'it', 'this', 'thing', 'way', 'some' etc.
|An example of unclear expression||The way we did the experiment was not so successful. Some of what we needed wasn't there.|
|An example of clear expression||We were unable to complete the experiment. The glass tubing and tripods required for the experiment were not located in laboratory GO25.|
Do not use contractions of verbs and pronouns as these are 'spoken forms' (doesn't, can't, it's, they're). The formal writing you will do at university and in the workplace will require the full form (does not, can not, it is, they are).
Check the spelling, punctuation and grammar of your sentences and make sure they are correct. If you use a computer spell checker, be careful. Make sure that you know which word to select. Many easily corrected errors in your written work will affect your presentation and your marks. Sometimes you can see errors more easily if you do not proofread your writing until a day or two after finishing writing. This is called 'the drawer treatment'. The Learning Centre has many resources on punctuation, grammar and spelling that you can use.