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Science speke

Do you speke science?

Woolly writing annoys us at TextWorkshop. It’s a recognised problem with art labels: writer and artist Alistair Gentry described art text as “going for the high score in a game of Scrabble instead of communicating ideas” in a recent piece for Interpretation Matters.

But science can be just as bad. Above is a label sent to us by alert TextWorkshopper Elle Root who joined us for our day at the Foundling Museum in June. She says “I read it about 5 times but I’m still not sure what they’re telling me…”

Science speke seems to have overtaken the writer of this piece of text, which muddies its own waters with mixed scientific metaphors and a layer of unnecessary jargon.

We saw the same problem at an in-house TextWorkshop where one delegate requested that we show them ‘more examples from science’. The funny thing was that practically all the examples we had selected were from science and engineering museums. But because they were entertaining, well-written labels, the delegate assumed they couldn’t possibly be science.

The goal of museum text is to communicate ideas – often quite complex ones in science, art, history and so on. But at TextWorkshop we believe it can, and should, be done without unnecessarily complex language.




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