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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Index of Banned Words (The Continually Updated Edition) | Carl Zimmer, National Geographic

[A]nyone who wants to learn how to write about science–and to be read by people who aren't being paid to read–should work hard to learn how to explain science in plain yet elegant English–not by relying on scientific jargon, code-words, deadening euphemisms, or meaningless cliches.
Science writer and instructor Carl Zimmer provides that advice in this article while stressing he is not saying no one should ever use the words he lists. "I am not teaching people how to write scientific papers," he writes. 

Zimmer came up with his original list while teaching a class several summers ago, and he's added to it since then, with the help of his readers. 

When posting the original list, Zimmer wrote:
Time and again, as I reviewed the assignments from the students, I came across words would fit comfortably in a textbook or a scientific paper, but, like an invasive insect, wreaked havoc when they were introduced into a piece of writing intended for the wide world. This is a problem I've observed across the scientific board, from professors I've edited in magazines to the science majors who made up the majority of students in my class. If you talk to them face-to-face, they will never say, “I utilized my spear gun.” But somehow they can’t avoid using utilize when they are writing, when use will do just fine.
Zimmer also links to a follow-up article he wrote that goes into more depth about why words matter--along with sentences, paragraphs, and so on. 

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Zimmer's "Index of Banned Words" is featured today, Jan. 31, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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