How is the language of literature different from the language of science?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Scientific language tends to use predominantly the agentless passive voice while literary language tends to use more active voice. If you are writing a science report, the emphasis is on the action rather than the agent (or actor).

For example: The cup was broken (says what happened but doesn't say who did it). In order to get the agent of the action into the sentence, you must include the information in a prepositional phrase.
or: David broke the cup (tells immediately who performed the act).

The distinction is important because each discipline favours language that fits with their values. In writing about literature, we use the active voice because the characters or the agents of an act are as important as the act itself. In writing about science, we wish to eliminate the agents because the action and not the scientist or the agent is what is really important.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One difference between the language in fiction and science is that science would more likely use a specific kind of vocabulary that might not be known to the average reader.

Another difference is that the language used in fiction is often full of 'literary devices' such as figurative language (alliteration, personification for example) and might use irony or sarcasm. An article written for science would not use figurative language or other rhetorical devices.

Finally, a difference would be that papers written for a science publication are usually written in the passive tense and in third person. It is objective. A work of fiction can be either in first, second (rare) or third person and usually active and may be subjective.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial