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Surprising Science

Classes Teach Scientists How to Write For Non-Experts

Scientists who have spent years writing in highly technical terms sometimes need guidance for how to phrase concepts and processes in ways laypeople can understand.

The Atlantic’s Alexandra Ossola has an interesting piece out right now on scientists who take specialized writing courses to help them communicate to laypeople. While most people perceive scientists as studious experimenters, the truth is that writing is a huge part of their job. Scientists author studies, write popular media articles, and submit grant applications. Some of these writings can be done using specific scientific language. You don’t need to dumb down your vocabulary for a scholarly journal. At other times, particularly when it comes to grants, the writer’s audience consists of non-experts on foundation board panels. This is where concision and simplicity must prevail.

Ossola takes us into the classroom of author Stephen Hall, who teaches a class of nine Ph.D. candidates and post-doctoral fellows how to write for people not like them. This often consists of finding more accessible words to replace science jargon and summarizing whole studies (and countless hours of work) into bite-sized bits for casual readers. Ossola notes that the benefits of these writing courses for scientists are twofold. First, it allows for scientists to connect with those who can fund their research. Second, it allows for scientists to enter discussion with the public at large and in particular with those who view the scientific community with wide-eyed suspicion.

For more on this story, I recommend checking out the whole article linked below.

Read more at The Atlantic

Photo credit: Zurijeta / Shutterstock


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