This is a book about scientific English, specifically, how should English be used in scientific publications. Scientific publication is aimed for clarify but not anything else. So all those rhetoric elements shall be removed and have to be removed if it has conflict with clarity.

So what’s interesting about that? Some common believes are rejected in this book. For example, passive voice is indeed good and necessary sometimes. Also, splitting infinitives can help clarity. More importantly, this book present a view to English grammar: Grammar in English, like Latin, is about consistency. So use logic rather than grammar rules to determine what to write.

An interesting example in this book is as follows:

A bunch of grapes is on the table. A bunch of apples are on the table.

Replacing one word, but the meaning would be different. The first example is is because grapes are connected; so second example is are because apples are loose. So you see why logic is more important than grammar rules.

In the latter part of the book, a chapter is dedicated to the word use. This is about reducing redundancies. I cannot agree more. Sometimes, we just use too much buzzwords or unnecessarily lengthen the passage without increasing the information content. Let me show a partial list of those useless redundancies here:

  • active consideration
  • complete stop
  • alternative choice
  • end result
  • past history
  • new innovation

You see, all the first words in the above list doesn’t increase the information of the second words. Similar is the oxymorons, which are contradicting words linked together, such as

  • clearly ambiguous
  • discovered missing
  • feel numb
  • may certainly
  • only choice
  • partially complete
  • tentative conclusion

We use them often, but if we look up their meaning one by one and try to figure out what they mean when they come together, we confused.

The bad thing about this book, in my opinion, is too technical in grammatical terms. Such as the clauses, phases, ordinate, subordinate, etc. I am just not interested in those definition and I don’t think I will spend time to figure out which is which when I am writing. Also, as the author is American, doesn’t address the difference between English (what Americans call British English) and American English. In English, it is totally OK to say which or where or who in place of that in a nonrestrictive clause. I know Americans don’t do that but I feel awkward.

Bibliographic data

   title = "Scientific English",
   author = "Robert A. Day",
   publisher = "Oryx Press",
   address = "Westport CT",
   year = "1995",
   library = "Dibner",
   classification = "PE1475.D38 1995",