“The Science of Scientific Writing”

This excellent 1990 article from American Scientist discusses how writers can work within paragraphs to improve clarity.  Section 9 summarizes what composition people call the “known-new contract”: readers expect that the beginning of a sentence will refer to what was just discussed (the known) and present new information after that.

An example from today’s Washington Post:

Friday, President Obama intends to sign a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits longer, reflecting the rise of long-term joblessness. The bill [KNOWN] also extends a first-time home-buyer tax credit and expands it [NEW] so current homeowners are eligible…

One Response

  1. There is an excellent collection of short essays on science writing at: http://promega.wordpress.com/category/science-writing-series/
    This collection is continually growing and is written by a group of science writers and editors who have a huge amount of experience communicating science.

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