5 Tips to Make Your Scientific Writing More Understandable
Whether you’re writing a blog post or a novel, there may come a time when you will need to introduce some science into it. The thing is, scientific texts are usually written in a complex way. However, when your work targets people who don’t speak science, you need to present complicated information in a way they’ll easily understand.
The most important thing to do is to master the art of simplifying and summarizing. For that, you will also need to pay close attention to the subject you’re writing about. That way you can decide which parts are safe to drop from your simplified summary.
So, without further ado, here are the top five ways to make your scientific writing more understandable.
1. Limit the use of formulas and technical jargon.
It’s not that the average person isn’t able to understand formulas and technical terms, but you don’t have to put them to the test. The main point of writing about science for the public is to encourage them to be more scientifically literate. It can also help your book gain more credibility by showing that you know what you’re talking about. Either way, before you can achieve this, people need to be interested in reading your work.
If you pepper the text with formulas and technicalities, the average person will become bored very quickly. Moreover, this kind of work might appear intimidating to the reader, which could put them off it entirely.
Therefore, whenever possible, you should:
- Limit the use of formulas.
- Replace technical terms with easy to understand phrases.
- Provide a definition or a simplified explanation for a technical term.
- When introducing new terms into your text, provide some explanation first so that the reader will get some idea about the term before reaching it.
- Use numbers as plot devices so that the reader stays focused and interested in finishing the text.
2. Put some life into your scientific writing.
What puts off a lot of people when it comes to scientific writing, is how dull and dead the writing is. That’s why you should thrive for a different approach, one that brings life back to science. Or at least, to people’s interest in it. Katie L. Burke, an editor at American Scientist, had something to say about that. She argued that the main issue with scientific writing is that scientists are taught to present information in an authoritative and unemotional way. This is what makes it sound boring, even when it’s not full of technical jargon and complex calculations.
The easiest fix in this situation is to create a scientific text that has a personality of its own. Use your writing voice and quirkiness to infuse the work with some energy that can garner interest. Which is why Julian Smith, from Bid4Papers, believes that even students can express themselves through style and choice of words in academic papers.
3. Become a teacher.
Your goal when writing scientific text should not be to translate difficult terms to the average Joe. That will only make your work sound more condescending and fail to make the point come across properly. Instead, think of yourself as a teacher. That way, you’ll find the easiest and best way to get your point across without losing the value of your work.
In order to do this, naturally, you’ll have to be well versed in whatever you’re writing about to find the right approach to go for. And of course, it helps that you understand who your target audience is. That way you can better adjust your writing, style, choice of words and overall details you’d like to add.
4. Write a first-person narrative.
Making your writing more relatable and easy for your readers to digest is not that hard. One tack to take is to write from a first-person perspective. That, in turn, will help in lessening the chances of your readers being detached and getting bored. Another tack to take would be to turn your text into a narrative. Tell a story instead of listing simplified salient points – but don’t forget that it’s easy to get carried away when you do this. It’s essential to maintain a balance between a light-hearted narrative and sheer fantasy. Using real-life examples should be a great help.
5. Use captions for your pictures.
There are cases where a picture is not, in fact, worth a thousand words. That’s when it happens to appear in a scientific text adapted for the public. However, there are times where you need to use them in your text anyway to add value and credibility to your work. Which leaves you with the task of making sure your readers actually understand what’s happening in the picture so that they won’t just skip through it. In this case, it would help to provide a short caption which will make it more easy to understand.
It’s no surprise to anyone that scientific texts have a bad reputation. Which is where you come in. It’s your duty as a scientific writer to come up with work that will demonstrate that science isn’t as hard as the general public seems to believe. Most importantly, you have to make the information comprehensible as well as fascinating. Never forget that you have a great responsibility on your shoulders, to make sure that your readers become interested in science and want to learn more about it.