Scientific writing: writing that bores, confuses, and frustrates

Lately, I have been pondering (a friend of mine might call it “internally lamenting”) the way science is presented in the written form. That is, why must scientific writing be so terrible to read? Why are certain practices — probably bad practices — encouraged?

I tweeted several links yesterday about scientific writing. Appropriately, today I stumbled across a post in the Science Careers section of Science, called How to Write Like a Scientist. It made me laugh… but also sad.

I don’t think that we should write as if we are trying desperately to captivate or move an audience (for example, poetically), but I also don’t think we should write in a manner that induces sleep… or the desire to stab oneself in the eye with the nearest sharp object. And why is the passive “It was concluded that…” preferable to the active “We concluded that…”? And on that note, I leave you with a few opinion pieces concerning use of the passive voice in technical writing, submitted to Nature in the mid-’90s.