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Chemistry articles are very poor reading April 11, 2010

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

In a thread on Carbon Based Curiosities, a side topic got going relating to using humor or modern catch words (like awesome) in a chemistry article:


My comment that chemistry articles are, by convention, made to be dull and dry is a very strong belief that the chemistry community has set a very strict and stupid standard. Chemistry articles cannot show any coloring – no humor, no catchy phrases, no use of metaphor, no creativity in the writing.

Why? My personal theory is that chemistry and the other physical sciences were dominated by Germans during the birth of scientific journals as a widespread medium. The Germanic flavor meant nothing but straight reporting of facts and history. No histrionics, no embellishments. Which leads to no enjoyable reading.

Compare a good scientific presentation to the resulting article in print. The talk can be very personal, with anecdotes and personal contemplations and puns and even laschievous mutterings. All of these get jettisonned from the textual form. Anything that adds vibrancy is left out. What was a great talk ends up being the dull eunuch in print.

I think reviewers and editors ought to have more tolerance and give authors more leeway. If the descriptions – the history and storyline that make the work’s importance, relevance, and reproduction possible, then a few words or lines here and there to add personality to the article are fine. The reviews will then focus on the quality of the science and only limit the writing if it diverts or dilutes the messages significantly.

Reading the chemistry literature is now very dull and laborious. Even a small step to make it less of a chore can only be good.

(BTW, read through this and see now that using a good and broad vocabulary does not deter getting a message across, but helps it. Go back and count how many less-common words I intentionally used to clarify my message.)



1. tyrosine - April 21, 2010

Pffft. Until you drew attention to it I didn’t even notice your “less common” words. I think you may suffer from a mild case of Dunbar-Kruger syndrome.

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