In light of the recent discussion around science writing, I decided to try a little experiment. I had an opportunity to submit a position paper to a workshop in my field recently, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try a more informal approach to writing. Position papers are always a little weird by their very nature, and the lack of hard data to present means you have a bit more flexibility in your prose, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
I got the reviews back today, and it was fairly mixed. The paper was accepted (barely), which is actually probably appropriate. I don’t think it was a really strong paper, and the scores seemed to me to be about exactly where I would have put them myself. So in that sense, writing informally didn’t seem to hurt me too much. However, there were several negative comments as well specifically singling out “informal” language, which was a little disappointing I guess.
Oh, and as a throwaway joke, I used the word “embiggened” in the paper, obviously a reference to the famous Simpsons neologism, which at least one reviewer complained about. The complaint was simply that it “isn’t a word, perhaps the author meant ‘enlarged’”, which probably indicates that the reviewer didn’t get the reference. No one else mentioned it at all, so it’s hard to say if it went unnoticed or was simply viewed as a perfectly cromulent word for a scientific paper.
I have to make some clean-ups for the camera-ready version, and there was enough push-back that I’ll probably rewrite some of the “worst” sections in a bit more standard scientific jargon.