Correspondence

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.

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  1. University of Rochester, New York, USA.

    • Eric G. Blackman

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Correspondence to Eric G. Blackman.

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