Watson and Crick Show How It's Done

In MEDICAL WRITING – A PRESCRIPTION FOR CLARITY, Goodman and Edwards cite a letter from Watson and Crick to Nature as an example of clear scientific writing. The letter contains fewer than 900 words.

About Watson and Crick's letter, they write "...many of the principles of clear writing are well illustrated by their opening paragraph."

Look at that. Passive voice. I'd write, "Their opening paragraph illustrates many of the principles of clear writing." I'll edit anybody.

Here's the first paragraph from Watson and Crick:

We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.

Goodman and Edwards then explain why it's a good example. Here's their reasoning, and I honestly don't remember how much is quoted and how much is paraphrased.

One note from me, Michael, in late 2010. "Novel" is an excellent word. So excellent, in fact, that I see it in almost every paper I edit. And also in most papers that I don't edit. I'll guess Watson and Crick used it first, but now that I've mentioned it, look for it. You'll see it everywhere except in a novel.

Updated April 10, 2018
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