Academic papers readability follow up

Back in 2019 I wrote the post, Why don’t academic papers follow online readability guidelines?.

I noted issues like huge walls of text preventing readability, lack of bullet points and other features long-known to enhance online readability.

An interesting article from December 2022 digs into this deeper, The elements of scientific style (a nice play on the influential typography work, The Elements of Style).

It notes that many scientific papers are poorly written, not just in terms of formatting as I listed in the earlier post, but they are

  • increasingly jargon-filled
  • full of acronyms
  • often have to fit arbitrary word limits, leaving less room for explanation and expansion of ideas
  • and more

The result? Reading such papers is a chore, so most won’t do it.

And it’s only been getting worse. For example the journal, Nature, noted in 2017, modern scientific papers are tougher to read than some from the 19th century. It also notes the problem is self-reinforcing, as often less experienced members of a team may do the writing using existing models as a guide.

Assuming you can overcome the issues of paywalled access, which has become an increasing concern, readability, and usability issues could mean significant information and opportunities are lost.