I got The Art of Scientific Writing (first edition) in early 1990s and it has been my trusty companion ever since. Although some parts of the books are a bit out of date (check out the section 5.2 Typewriter or Word Processor? and you’ll see what I mean), it remains an excellent read.
Appendix A, Oral Presentations, gives a no-nonsense advice how to deliver a good lecture, while Appendix B, Aspects of Scientific English, is a must read (I mean it: must read) for anyone who ever think of submitting a written communication in English. I can’t recommend it enough.
Much scientific writing is littered with idle words, awkward constructions, and inaccurate phrasing simply because few scientists take seriously the importance of good writing.
Readers of scientific prose are altogether too tolerant and too willing to shoulder an inappropriate amount of the burden. Perhaps this is a reflection of the scientist’s love of puzzle-solving, but it is certainly not conductive to effective communication.
We have frequently condemned the tendency to indulge in meaningless verbosity. The most obvious target is the pompous phrase hiding a simple idea:
- a number of (many)
- a majority of (most)
- at this point in time (now)
- despite the fact that (although)
- due to the fact that (because)
- for the purpose of (for, to)