Language: Being Clear

  • Michael Alley


While precision in scientific writing means saying what you mean, clarity means avoiding things that you don’t mean. Too often in scientific writing, a cloudy sentence disrupts the continuity and authority of an entire section. In scientific writing, each sentence builds on the ones around it. If one sentence is weak, your language falters and your readers stumble. What makes writing unclear? In scientific writing, there are two principal sources: ambiguity and needless complexity.


Prepositional Phrase Scientific Writing Solar Energy System Radiometer System High Toxicity Level 
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  1. Bohr, Niels, The Theory of Spectra and Atomic Constitution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1924), p. 81.Google Scholar
  2. Einstein, Albert, (1912) qtd. in Albert Einstein: eine dokumentarische Biographie, by Carl Seelig (Vienna: Europa-Verlag, 1954), p. 168. Original text: “Die Schönheit, meine Herren, wollen wir den Schustern und Schneidern überlassen. Unser Forschungsziel muß die Wahrheit bleiben.” Google Scholar
  3. Fowler, H. W., A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 481.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Alley
    • 1
  1. 1.Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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