Is There Hope for Good Writing in the Sciences?
So what does that have to to with Cormac McCarthy? McCarthy loves science and scientists. The writer of such novels as No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian, and The Road has "Since the 1990s, maintained a desk at the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary scientific think tank, and has served as a volunteer copy-editor for several scientists, including Lisa Randall, Harvard’s first female tenured theoretical physicist, and physicist Geoffrey West, author of the popular science book Scale." It is people like McCarthy, West, and Randall that will, hopefully, get the Arts and Sciences to blend together as they should.
Here is some of McCarthy's writing advice:
If you were to choose one these rules on clear writing, which would it be? Why?
- Use minimalism to achieve clarity…. Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.
- Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember…. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.
- Limit each paragraph to a single message.
- Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct.
- Try to avoid jargon, buzzwords or overly technical language. And don’t use the same word repeatedly—it’s boring.
- Don’t over-elaborate. Only use an adjective if it’s relevant…. Don’t say the same thing in three different ways in any single section.
- Choose concrete language and examples.
- When you think you’re done, read your work aloud to yourself or a friend. Find a good editor you can trust and who will spend real time and thought on your work.
- Finally, try to write the best version of your paper—the one that you like. You can’t please an anonymous reader, but you should be able to please yourself.
- When you make your writing more lively and easier to understand, people will want to invest their time in reading your work.