Call me Ishmael.
It’s one of the most famous opening lines in English-language literature, and it starts one of the most famous books. Like everyone else, I knew about Moby Dick. Like a very large fraction of everyone else, I’d never read it.* I’ve just finished it, and you know how each reader comes at a book in their own way? I found that Moby Dick made me think about scientific writing.
I know, that’s a little weird, and I’ll admit that scientific writing is something I obsess about a tiny little bit. But as I settled into Moby Dick, and thought about what Melville was doing in the writing, I kept noticing things. Moby Dick, I claim, has things to teach us about scientific writing – both in the ways that it resembles good scientific writing, and in the ways that it does not. Continue reading