The goal of any piece of writing is to communicate an idea (or several) between the writer and the reader. In scientific publications, often the purpose is not only to commnicate the experiments and results, but also why the work matters. So often people seem to think that an important idea requires “important” vocabulary; big, fancy words that the author hopes will convince you of his or her intellectual prowess. The result is usually confusion more than awe. As scientists, we are better served impressing others with the quality of our ideas, rather that the length of our words, remember:
Keep It Simple Scientists!
While there are different rules for writing scolarly articles versus articles for the layman, as a general rule, don’t use words in a paper that you wouldn’t use in conversation with a fellow scientist. Fancy words won’t impress your P.I. if you don’t have results, and your mom is impressed because you can say “femtosecond crystallography” without pausing to collect yourself.
So here are some ways to help you keep your language at the appropriate level.
1. Read your work out loud to yourself. If you sound pretentious or weird, tone it down.
2. If there’s a word that you can’t define without a sentence of explanation, use a different one.
3. There is almost no situation where ‘utilize’ should be used in place of ‘use’.
Remember to keep it simple and let your ideas speak for themselves.