Here’s a little something I wrote on the flight back from the conference I attended before Christmas. It didn't quite turn out right, which is why you haven't seen it yet, but I'm a bit busy and uninspired right now so I've dredged it out for your enjoyment.
Answer: All of them, obviously
As anyone who has ever read a paper will know, scientific English is a bit different from the stuff we speak around the coffee table (and what you’ll read here). Basically, the aim of academic writing is to sound as intelligent as you can while still being quite vague. Language should be as grandiloquent as possible, to the point of obfuscation, and common words must never be used when more bookish ones are available. There are several classic papers which I needed a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary to decode. And I’m fine with that; that’s how it should be.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the primary literature has become increasingly accessible and easy to read. It all began with the advent of Chemdraw, robbing the world of the beauty of stencilled/hand drawn structures, and the unabated simplification of the language still proceeds apace. This must stop. It is not acceptable to write that reactions ‘give’ or ‘yield’ particular compounds. Words like ‘furnish’, ‘afford’ or even ‘educe’ are far superior, and one should try to use a different one in each instance. Here are a few further ways to decrease the readability of your work and frustrate and confuse native and non-native English speakers alike. Just remember, you’re really doing them a favour.
‘Deprotect’ is so soulless and mechanical. Words like the slightly erotic ‘denude’, the jubilant ‘emancipate’ or ‘liberate’ are much more evocative. Even ‘reveal’ or ‘unmask’ create an air of mystery and sophistication.
‘Among’ becomes ‘amongst’, ‘while’ becomes ‘whilst’. Just do it; no-one knows why.
Give yourself a pat on the back for every instance of ‘Hitherto’, ‘notwithstanding’, ‘inasmuch’, ‘heretofore’, 'forthwith', and ‘unbeknownst’ you manage to include in a paper.
Reflex verbs are awesome. Useful ones include ‘bethink’, ‘belie’, ‘bespoke’, ‘betoken’ and ‘besmirch’.
If at all possible make up or redefine a few words – they might stick (retron, synthon, chiron, organocatalyst, umpolung etc); they might not (educt, carbogen, antithetic analysis etc).
Show your love of the literature and the extent of your erudition by calling reactions and reagents by the names of their discoverers wherever possible, no matter how obscure or unnecessary. Oxidation with m-CPBA? Prilezhaev Reaction. Aldol Reaction? Borodin β-hydroxyketone synthesis etc.
If you can’t stick to writing in the third person passive, at least use majestic plurals, especially if you’re the sole author.
Never say ‘outline’. It’s so common. With words like ‘delineate’ and ‘adumbrate’, clarity has never been so easy to avoid.
Try to avoid saying ‘lucky’, as it’s a bit unprofessional. ‘Fortunate’ is okay at undergraduate level but real scientists use words like ‘propitious’, ‘fortuitous’, or even ‘serendipitous’.
‘Quick’ and ‘rapid’ can be improved to ‘expedient’ or ‘expeditious’. Bask in the ridiculousness of using a four syllable word for ‘fast’.
Simultaneous is a nice word, but if you find yourself overusing it then don’t forgot that ‘contemporaneous’ and ‘concomitant’ are both excellent synonyms.
Reactions that don’t work (for you), or require a particular phase of the moon to obtain a good yield can be passed off as ‘fickle’, ‘capricious’ or ‘mercurial’.
‘Apposite’ is better than ‘appropriate’ and 'extraneous’ should replace ‘extra'.
Use Latin, and lots of it. We’re all familiar with cf. (confer=compare), i.e. (id est = that is) and e.g. (examplia gratis= for example). Don’t forget also ibid., q.v., viz., sine qua non and others.
Now you too can lard your work with exciting words to confuse new PhD students and the millions of people who read the literature in a language not their own. They have it far too easy!
1. Yes, this is a joke. If you hadn’t noticed that by now, it might not be a good idea to keep reading.
2. I’m pretty sure I heard once that sarcasm is highest form of wit. We British enjoy it, anyway.