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To increase general readers' understanding and sympathy for scientific and technical subject matter, authors need a literary form that allows the material to be effectively related to common human experience. The imposing formality of scientific papers and technical reports must yield to the organic form and rhetorical richness of the personal essay. Stephen Jay Gould's essay “Of Bamboos, Cicadas, and the Economy of Adam Smith” demonstrates how the use of organic form and rhetorical techniques like examples, analogies, metaphors, historical background, and general personalism can enhance communication with nonspecialists. Excellence in essay writing is achieved only through careful planning, writing, and rewriting, but effective interpretation of science and technology for the intelligent general reader is worth the effort.
Date of Publication: Dec. 1982