An eNewsletter Dedicated to Helping Businesspeople Write Smarter and Faster in Plain Language
Plain Writing Allows Scientific Ideas to Reach More People
In the following article, “Scientists Need Plain Language,” Lily Whiteman explains why scientists need to use plain writing when they write for the public:
Despite widespread scientific illiteracy, the public is currently confronting many important science-based choices. For example:
- About 50 percent of the major bills that come before Congress contain a major scientific or technological component. (Current science-based public policy issues include, for example, stem cell research, global warming, and biohazards.)
- Juries are evaluating more and more technical evidence, such as DNA-based evidence, medical evidence, and fiber evidence.
- More and more patients are making important medical decisions for themselves instead of deferring to physicians, as they have traditionally done.
For the public to make smart decisions on science-based issues, they must understand them. As Isaac Asimov said, “The whole premise of democracy is that it is safe to leave important questions to the court of public opinion—but is it safe to leave them to the court of public ignorance?” Plain language is one of our best tools for improving scientific literacy and encouraging wise decision-making by the public on science-based issues.
Plain Writing Also Benefits Other Scientists
It is important for scientists to use plain language not only to reach the public, but also to reach one another. Indeed, scientific information conveyed in plain language invariably reaches bigger scientific audiences than information conveyed in technical language. Evidence of this includes the following:
- A recent study showed that medical articles reported in The New England Journal of Medicine and then reported in The New York Times receive about 73 percent more citations in medical reports than do articles not reported in The New York Times.
- The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine is a nationally successful journal with the best readership growth trend and advertising growth trend in its market. But the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine wasn’t always so successful. Until the mid-1990s, it was a forgettable, low-circulation journal.
How did the editors of the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine dramatically increase their readership? By replacing their journal’s dense, long-winded, jargon-filled style with an alternative style that incorporates the principles of plain language. This new and more popular style emphasizes the liberal use of white space, eye-catching sidebars, easy-to-understand graphics, succinct article summaries, attention-grabbing article titles, everyday language, conciseness, clarity, and short regular features covering practical topics.
- One brow wrinkle is the result of 200,000 frowns.
- Antarctica is the only land on the planet not owned by a country.
- The average lifespan of a human taste bud is seven to 10 days.
- Queen Victoria made white wedding dresses fashionable. Before she wore a white dress for her 1840 wedding, brides wore the nicest dress in their closet, including black.
- Which country shares the most borders with other countries: Russia, Brazil, China, Germany? (Trivia Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Word of the Month
risible | RIZ-əbəl | adjective
1: that which provokes laughter
“Keith thought that the new CFO’s ideas to cut expenses were risible.”
Wacky & Wise Websites
Click here and see if you can pronounce every word in this poem written in 1920. If so, you are among the English-speaking elite!
Click here to see some of the hottest cool gadgets of 2019.
American Express, Amgen, Cisco Systems, Department of the Navy, Fluor Corporation, General Electric, Motorola, The New York Public Library, Procter & Gamble, SEAL Team Six, State of Utah, Supreme Court of Virginia, United Way, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Writing Tips & More
Now that you’ve read the newsletter, go to the menu bar at the top of this page and check out the rest of our website. Click on Blog to see more writing tips, fun writing facts, and Words of the Week.
Subscribe to Writing Tips now!
SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Select the pair that best expresses a relationship similar to that expressed in the original pair.
lamentation : sorrow
- instigation : plot
- reassurance : anxiety
- exclamation : surprise
- resistance : futility
- interruption : occurrence
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Gerrymander, which means to create voting districts with boundaries that favor one political party over another, is the combination of two words: Gerry, the last name of the governor of Massachusetts in 1812, and salamander. Elbridge Gerry’s political party, the Democratic-Republicans (later the Democratic Party), controlled the state’s legislature and they drew boundaries in one voting district that favored their party. When drawn on a map, the boundaries looked like a salamander. Hence the name.
Answer: A lamentation expresses sorrow; an exclamation expresses surprise.
Fun Facts Answer
China shares its border with 14 other countries.