"Why must dryness be written by us?" Adam Ruben asks in a passive voice in Science Careers this week. As scientists, he actively asks, "why can't we tell our science in interesting, dynamic stories?"
Ruben goes on to discuss the ways in which scientific writing is "just plain different from all other writing." He says that journal articles are "not written in English, per se; they're written in a minimalist English intended merely to convey numbers and graphs." For example, scientists are often taught to avoid writing in the first person. "Science succeeds in spite of human beings, not because of us, so you want to make it look like your results magically discovered themselves," Ruben jokes. Another oddity, he adds, is that many journals prefer manuscripts be written in past tense.
"But there's a reason scientific journal articles tend to be dry, and it's because we're writing them that way," Ruben says. "We hope that the data constitutes an interesting story all by itself, but we all know it usually doesn't. It needs us, the people who understand its depth and charm, to frame it and explain it in interesting ways."