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?

10 thoughts on “Stephen Jay Gould & Natalie Angier: What makes science writing readable?

  1. I think that the quote makes sense in that the “technical” in Technical writing is just the form of transmitting information in a certain way. I usually try and keep to that style myself but every now and then I can’t help but input some opinions into it. Writing is much better than you can feel that the writer wants to tell you something from the heart, rather just transmit information and be done with it – unless the reason is to tell you about something and leave it at that.

  2. i think she means that no one can invent because there are things out there that are invented, we have to seek these inventions and discover a way to translate them into society. especially in a diverse world we live in, one person will take something one day, and another person will comprehend it differently. so in writing we have to translate our writing so that everyone understands it.

  3. The message imbedded in this quote is that if one breaks down writing to its most basic form its just a processes that has been thought to us many times and it is meant to allow us to describe, classify, and interpret things around us in a way that other will be able to understand. With that said the quote ends with “there is not much to teach in a technical writing class” what this means is that because one has been thought how to write several times ergo one knows the technical aspects of writing in depth leaving very little to be learned from a technical writing class. My approach to this writing class is like any other i`m expecting to better my writings form and style as well as learn more about writing and what good writing is.

  4. I think she is stating that Writing is not invented but discovered which means that there is not a specific form or style of writing that has not been introduced. I think she also means that writing is similar to science whereby the form and style depends on observation or interpretation of what one discovers and very little about what is taught.

  5. In my opinion Carolyn R. Miller’s is trying to tell us that, the way we communicate is based on our experience. Information’s that we are trying to give has to be simple to understand for every one, and this is based on our previous communication with others.

  6. Writing is reporting our information, ideas and thoughts on the paper or website, so we can share it with other people. As the information we can write what we see or what we saw on a particular day which can be interesting to other people.

  7. I love the idea that “science does not invent, it discovers”. Discovery is the priority and just as is imperative as the information itself is the manner in which it is conveyed. Things known and kept to one’s self do the world no good. And facts (and even opinions) expressed in terms and manners only understood by a very select few – or none at all – are essentially worthless.

  8. Writing is a way of communication. If we go by this approach, we can say that a technical writing class won’t make you a writing expert but will help you make your writing more understandable and the information that is sent in a message will be more clear for the reader.

  9. Some people tend to write in a complicated and high level technique. It is extremely significant to write in a well mannered way that allows any readers of any levels to clearly understand what is being read. Therefore, it becomes interesting to read things that are simple and understandable no matter what the topic is about.

  10. I belive that this qoute has some interesting details that outline the duty of a scientist. ” The whole idea of invention is heresy to positivist science–science does not invent, it discovers “. This specific line caught my eye because this explains the whole purpose of what scientist do

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *