Entertaining science

…still working on Cribb and Sari’s Open Science:

“Good science writing contains passion. In this respect it is quite unlike scientific writing, where the goal is to be objective and engage the reader’s mind through fact alone. Science writing seeks to engage both intellect and feelings, making it one of the higher literary forms. It should intrigue and inspire, and provoke surprise, wonderment, fear or excitement. It can be clean, elegant, even beautiful. It can have rhythm and music.

“Passion can be displayed in many ways – in the choice of words, the vigour of the prose, the cadence of the sentences, the use of metaphor and analogy, and the colour and pace of the language. Just as we are engaged by [-p.27] a lively speaker more than by a dull one, science can hold greater significance for the reader if the writer allows their feelings to show.” (pp.26-27)

“Books, magazines, newspapers, the internet, TV and radio are nowadays chiefly designed to entertain – and when science appears in them, it too must entertain as well as inform. It should court controversy rather than avoid it, as debate is the fuel of democracy. It should present itself in lively ways, with plenty of direct quotations (as distinct from indirect quotes or citations), because the spoken voice lends vividness and immediacy to the subject. It should employ familiar imagery from sport, the arts or daily life to help make the unfamiliar familiar.

“Good science writing uses punctuation thoughtfully, to aid the reader’s understanding by pausing in the right places and avoiding long, complex sentences. Commas and full stops both achieve this and can be used plentifully (though not before conjunctions such as ‘and’ and ‘but’, which are supposed to join sentences together). There is a lot of confusion over the use of colons and semicolons. As a rule, a semicolon can be used to divide a sentence more strongly; this avoids breaking it in two; all parts of the sentence should have a verb. A colon can be used to highlight what follows: as illustrated in this sentence. It can also be used at the start of a list of facts or statements.” (p.27)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold, mine) Julian Cribb and Tjempaka Sari (2010) Open Science: sharing knowledge in the global century. CSIRO Publishing: Collingwood


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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