Stephen Jay Gould & Natalie Angier: What makes science writing readable?

Consider this quote from Carolyn R. Miller’s “A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing”:

“If the subject matter of science (bits of reality, inartistic proofs) exists independently, the scientist’s duty is but to observe clearly and transmit faithfully. The whole idea of invention is heresy to positivist science–science does not invent, it discovers. Form and style become techniques for increasingly accurate transmission of logical processes or of sensory observations; consequently, we teach recipes for the description of mechanism, the description of process, classification, and interpretation. … If we take this approach to form and style very seriously, there is not very much to teach in a technical writing class.”

On Sept 19, we are going to look at Stephen Jay Gould’s classic article “Size and Shape” together in class, along with an excerpt from Natalie Angier’s book The Canon. We are going to compare and contrast it with some examples of muddled and jargon-laden writing. We will consider how science and technical writing employ rhetoric and style to communicate and make an impression on readers.

We will also consider What Is Writing?