Introduction

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

The main purpose of scientific writing is to record data. Without a written record of our findings, there is no proof that we have done the research, and precious information may be lost. Many an experiment may have to be repeated, simply because there is no record of the data. Needless to say, this negligence adversely impacts on the efficiency of sharing scientific knowledge.

One of the main challenges of scientific writing is to pack vast and complex information into clear and well-structured texts. It is a skill that requires not only knowledge of the scientific field but also practice in writing. Uncertainties about the required style and format of scientific papers may delay publication of important findings.

We must bear in mind that scientific writing differs substantially from literary writing. While literary writing is an art based on principles of personal style, fiction, and originality, good scientific writing is a craft that builds on clear communication of scientifically researched facts.

The beauty of medical and scientific writing is its ability to express the most complicated concepts in clear words and to point out the beauty of science without distracting decoration. Although we would all agree that the beauty of science is in the science itself, not in the language used to describe it, we have to accept that a confusing account of our findings will not do justice to the science that lies behind it.

What can we as writers do to ensure that our scientific message reaches the intended target population? Good scientific writing is:

• understandable: Readers should read our paper in full, rather than discarding it after a few sentences because the text makes no sense to them. We should also bear in mind that while the international scientific language is English, the native tongues of readers (other scientists, regulators, etc.) may be a language other than English.

• transparent: The written report is often the only way for readers to access the research done. Thus, our scientific paper is the only "window" through which readers can view our "laboratory."

• clear: Some scientists seem to want to keep their acquired knowledge to themselves rather than share it with the scientific community or their peers. They may choose to write in a vague, complicated, and unstructured manner, using ample ornamentation that distracts the reader. However, good scientific writing should inform rather than confuse the readers.

• credible: As scientists, we have to be credible to gain our readers' respect. For instance, if we apply for a research grant, our written proposal must be convincing, both in terms of the concepts and the language used to describe them. Similarly, a paper written in an accurate, compelling, and logical style conveys to the readers that the research described was also done accordingly. The way we express ourselves portrays the way we think.

• efficient: By improving our scientific writing skills, we essentially gain time. Poorly written papers may be delayed or even rejected although the science behind them may be of considerable interest. A reputation of being a good and reliable scientific writer will open doors to more publishing and positive feedback.

• simple: Text devoid of unnecessary decorative words is more readily understood than complicated, ornamental expositions.

Q Successful communication in science involves clarity and simplicity, short sentences, transparency, and consistency.

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