Scientific papers often are written in a dry, formulaic style. Mine are no exception. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is scope for style in scientific papers. Not nearly as much scope as in many other forms of writing, but there definitely is some.
In ecology, I think Steve Ellner, Ben Bolker, Tony Ives, and Robin Snyder are all very good, often adopting a conversational style to walk readers through, and help them appreciate, difficult mathematics. I think of this as “tour guide” style. In evolution, Steven Frank and H. Allen Orr are very good. It’s perhaps no accident that all of these folks are theoreticians and modelers who publish regularly in general ecology and evolution journals. If you’re writing math-heavy papers for a non-mathematical audience, you’re almost obliged to be a very good explainer. A dry, “just the facts, ma’am” style isn’t going to cut it. Among folks who write math-free papers, I think my PhD supervisor Peter Morin has an admirably clear and straightforward style, but the distinction between his authorial voice and that of an average scientific author is perhaps more subtle.
Probably not coincidentally, Peter Morin, Steve Ellner, and Ben Bolker all have written textbooks, and Steven Frank and Allen Orr have written books as well. You have to be able to write well to do that, and I’m sure doing that makes you an even better writer.
So who do you think writes the most stylish scientific papers?