Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Science writing: On what's neither clear nor obvious

This is a friendly suggestion to colleagues across all scientific disciplines to think twice about ever again using the words 'obviously' and 'clearly' in scientific and technical writing. These words are largely unhelpful, particularly to students, who may be counterproductively discouraged if what is described is not in fact obvious or clear to them.

Even the most astute readers can disagree about what is clear and obvious. The author may have been immersed in the subject for decades longer than the reader, for example, so his or her long-standing assumptions could involve subtleties that the reader feels ought to be revisited.

When seeking to convey the minimal effort needed to understand an argument that follows, or to provide a gauge for what should be evident to a reader who has progressed to that stage, there is more effective language available.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eric G. Blackman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Blackman, E. Science writing: On what's neither clear nor obvious. Nature 550, 457 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/550457e

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/550457e

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing