Key takeaways


  • But compounding these issues is a simple truth that has made science less impactful than it could otherwise be: Scientific papers are poorly written. And they’ve been getting worse. (View Highlight)
  • Unrelated ideas are strung together in wall-of-text paragraphs, providing no guidance to readers, who must then spend their cognitive resources figuring out the structure rather than absorbing the contents. (View Highlight)
    • Note: This is why writing in a straightforward and clear way is so important. Don’t waste the reader’s energy!
  • When an abbreviation is unfamiliar, readers must do some cognitive work to unpack it. This is true even if the abbreviation is defined at the beginning of the paper, as common practice demands. Humans do not read like computers: Declaring a ‘variable’ once does not guarantee that people will be able to remember it without effort when it comes up later. So, while acronyms and abbreviations do have their uses, their increased frequency over time is rather bad news. (View Highlight)

New highlights added August 21, 2023 at 2:15 PM

  • scientists used to be much more playful in their academic writing: they used italics and exclamation marks, they wrote ‘charming descriptions’, and they didn’t hesitate to tell their own research in the form of a story, narrating moments of both confusion and excitement. (View Highlight)
  • To be precise, the current publishing model may be well suited to minor discoveries made within an existing paradigm. But it is plausible that paradigm shifts, which upend our understanding and are associated with fast progress, are rarer when everyone avoids reading papers outside of their field because of the friction and tedium (View Highlight)
    • Note: If your writing is impossible to understand for anyone except colleagues in the same field, we’ll have less cross-pollination between fields.
  • Bad writing can serve, intentionally or not, as a way to hide the truth. The fewer eyeballs that fall onto a paper, the less likely any issues with the research will be brought to light. (View Highlight)