Scientific writing

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Not to be confused with Science writing.

Scientific writing is writing for science.[1]


Scientific writing in English started in the 14th century.[2]

The Royal Society established good practice for scientific writing. Founder member Thomas Sprat wrote on the importance of plain and accurate description rather than rhetorical flourishes in his History of the Royal Society of London. Robert Boyle emphasized the importance of not boring the reader with a dull, flat style.[1]

Because most scientific journals accept manuscripts only in English, an entire industry has developed to help non-native English speaking authors improve their text before submission. It is just now becoming an accepted practice to utilize the benefits of these services. This is making it easier for scientists to focus on their research and still get published in top journals.[citation needed]

Besides the customary readability tests, software tools relying on Natural Language Processing to analyze text help writer scientists evaluate the quality of their manuscripts prior to submission to a journal. SWAN, a Java app written by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland is such a tool.[3][non-primary source needed]

Writing style guides[edit]

Different fields have different conventions for writing style, and individual journals within a field usually have their own style guides.

Some style guides for scientific writing recommend against use of the passive voice, while some encourage it.[4][5]

Some journals prefer using "we" rather than "I" as personal pronoun. Note that "we" sometimes includes the reader, for example in mathematical deductions.[citation needed]

Publication of research results is the global measure used by all disciplines to gauge a scientist’s level of success.[citation needed]

In the mathematical sciences, it is customary to report in the present tense.[6]

In the chemical sciences, drawing chemistry is as fundamental as writing chemistry. The point is clearly made by 1981 Nobel Prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Joseph E. Harmon, Alan G. Gross, "On Early English Scientific Writing", The scientific literature 
  2. ^ Irma Taavitsainen, Päivi Pahta, Medical and scientific writing in late medieval English 
  3. ^ "Scientific Writing Assistant". April 2012. 
  4. ^ Day, Robert; Sakaduski, Nancy (30 June 2011). Scientific English: A Guide for Scientists and Other Professionals, Third Edition. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39173-6. 
  5. ^ Dawson, Chris (2007). "Prescriptions and proscriptions. The three Ps of scientific writing – past, passive and personal". Teaching Science: The Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association. 53 (2): 36–38. 
  6. ^ Nicholas J. Higham, 1998. Handbook of writing for the mathematical sciences, Second Edition. Philadelphia: Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. p. 56
  7. ^ Hoffmann, Roald (2002). "Writing (and Drawing) Chemistry". In Jonathan Monroe. Writing and Revising the Disciplines (PDF). Cornell University Press. pp. 29–53. Retrieved 2012-12-20.