Scientist to write plain English? Like asking cat to bark
Notes: From the preface to the first edition (1996) of Richard C. J. Somerville's, The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change, written to explain atmospheric science to general readers.
Somerville later became the Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. He upated The Forgiving Air in 2008 to reflect the latest findings in that report.
On writing for non-scientists, he related this anecdote: Scientists often speak in
"ultra-accurate jargon, without realizing that those same words have other connotations. As a reality check, I sometimes run my own writing by my mother, a perceptive critic and a fine writer. Once I gave her a paper that employed a phrase like: 'the mean concentrations of chlorine for zonal mean conditions in the winter mean stratosphere.' She said, 'It sounds so nasty, Richard, to use the word mean all the time!'" (p. xxi)
September 18, 2011
Thanks for letting us know. It inspires us when we hear about a "tool" being used!