Image: Storytelling chair © BeyondTimelines, CC-0 via pixabay.com
There are plenty of strong opinions and controversies about scientific writing: the active voice vs. the passive, how to describe a result with P = 0.06, even – and perhaps most spectacular for ratio of strength of feeling to importance – one space or two after a full stop. But one controversy that astonishes me is that over whether or not scientific writing is “storytelling”. Spoiler alert: of course it is.
It may seem odd to use the word “storytelling” for scientific writing, because we tend to think of that word as associated with fiction. Continue reading
Image: Der Grossvater erzählt eine Geschichte (Grandfather tells a story). Albert Anker, 1884 (Berlin Museum of Art) via Wikimedia Commons
Sometimes I’ll meet with a grad student who’s feeling stuck on a piece of writing, and I’ll do something they find surprising. It’s this: I’ll think for a moment, roll my chair away from the desk a bit, look up at the ceiling, and dictate the paragraph that’s needed, more of less off the top of my head. (A very rough version, mind you. And I can do it for a paragraph or two – not for a whole paper!) A while ago, one student stopped me midway through dictation and asked me how I could possibly do that. It seemed, to her, like a superpower.
That brought me up short, because I hadn’t consciously realized that when I do it, I’m using a writing trick. Continue reading