JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.
Queries and Minor Notes.
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 31, 1904.
To the Editor:—Your editorial Jan. 9,
1904, discussing why scientists are poor writers, aroused my spirit of refutation,
because I think your point is not well taken. I am like the man who can neither
provide nor prepare a good meal, but who can enjoy it when it is set before
him; I am neither a scientist nor a good writer, but I can appreciate a good
article. It all depends on the viewpoint. No doubt the scientist believes
himself a good writer; it is the non-scientist who thinks he is not. The scientist
loves to indulge in technicalities, precision and prolixity, while the less
scientific man thinks them prosy and pedantic. The scientist scorns to reduce
his style to the popular taste, while the popular writer "stoops to conquer."
The scientist either loses himself in the mass of details and citations of
authorities and statistics, thus putting his readers in the position of the
person "looking for a needle in the haystack," or he so overwhelms them with
facts that they feel as if they were wrestling with the effects of a banquet.
We do not "see ourselves as others see us," and it therefore takes a non-scientific
man to criticise a scientist and a scientist to squash his critic; that is
your opportunity, and I presume you will make the most of it. E.G.
WHY ARE SCIENTISTS POOR WRITERS? JAMA. 2004;291(6):766. doi:10.1001/jama.291.6.766-a
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