Writing to your audience

Subject: Writing to your audience
From: Peter Neilson <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2011 13:14:31 -0500

I happened to be looking up cyclohexane and came upon this short piece:


It tells of Hermann Sachse's discovery in 1890 of the correct conformational structure of cyclohexane, and of his failure to communicate it to other organic chemists. He even made 3-D models, but his work was rejected precisely because it required the reader to cut out and fold a paper model. "It is not possible," wrote a reviewer, "to write an abstract of this paper, especially since the author's explanations are hardly understandable without models."

Sachse produced various explanations of the structure, using very hairy trigonometry and geometry, that no chemist bothered reading. He died three years later. The structure was not validated until 1918, and not fully recognized until 1950.

The article concludes with:

"Know your audience, and express yourself in terms they can understand."

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