Which words to use?

You know what to say and in which order to say it but how do you say it now? It is not simple to choose the right words, especially as a scientist. You balance between using the correct terminology while making sure to use understandable vocabulary as well.

Because of our scientific training, we have learned a very rich vocabulary but this also comes with its disadvantages. Presentations are often full of difficult words that are not always jargon.

The Lorentz force stays the Lorentz force and osmosis stays osmosis of course. But we don’t have our results ‘converge’ or ‘interact’. No, we bring them together and we compare them instead.

What you are saying in your presentation is often already very difficult and technical and for that reason, it is not necessary to add extra weight to your presentation. A speaker who can explain a concept very simply comes across as much more intelligent than a speaker who can only speak in difficult terms. 


The model applied to this oxidation process obviously has its limits and limitations. The anomaly between the simulated and the observed values is a direct consequence of the fact that we still don’t fully comprehend the integral pathway. Furthermore, the accumulation of measuring errors is of course relevant to the interpretation of the observed values. 


If we apply this model to the oxidation, we see a difference between the simulated and the measured values. This is not so strange if you realise that we still don’t understand the mechanism of this reaction completely. There are, of course, also experimental measuring errors. 

We write more than we speak. As a result, we start speaking in the same way as we write, which often sounds rather forced. A jury wants to hear you speak because they want to hear your explanations. But if you speak in the same way as you wrote your thesis or report, your defence or presentation has hardly any added value. 

It is therefore important to avoid very formal or old-fashioned words. Think of words such as ‘hence’, ‘albeit’, ‘forthwith’ or ‘notwithstanding’. Also avoid very long and overly complicated sentences filled with subclauses. 


On the basis of the respective CFD-model applied to this water basin, we can identify that erosion mainly takes place halfway at the level of zone A. Notwithstanding, in zone C and D, sediment formation can be observed.


According to this CFD-model, it will mainly be the middle of zone A that will erode, even though no sediment formation was observed in zone C or D. 

The audience is central

Why are scientific presentations often so difficult? Especially if the topic of the presentation lies outside of our own field, it takes much effort to understand what the speaker is saying. As a listener, you often blame yourself for this because you think you are not intelligent enough to follow the speaker who happens to be a genius when it actually should be the other way around. It’s the task of the speaker to make sure everything is understandable and clear.

If you want to make something clear as a speaker, you often need a difficult concept or a complicated theory which means you will probably mention the concept first and then explain it. With a bit of luck, you are also able to come up with a clear example for your audience.


Most people in your audience only understand the concept after you give them an example. Therefore, it is a good idea to give the example first, after which you can explain it and mention the concept. If you don’t do that, your audience will have to move from one difficult term to the next in your presentation. As a result, they won’t understand anything anymore and they will stop listening. If you can’t find an example that is easy to understand, you can of course leave it out. 


DNA supercoiling refers to the phenomenon of relatively over- or underwinding of a DNA-molecule in comparison to the native, relaxed B-helix. You can compare this to a rubber band that retakes its shape if you overwind it. 



Have you ever wound a rubber band so hard that it retakes its shape? A DNA strand does exactly the same and that is what we call ‘supercoiling’. 

Explaining something well doesn’t only mean that you use simple words but you should also try to speak as visually as possible. Atoms don’t interact but they collide. 

Such a comparison is what we call a metaphor. You visualize theories and concepts. This is not only easier to understand but it also helps to process and remember what you hear. 

In explanations, for example, electricity is often compared to water. The voltage is a height difference. The current is the flowrate and the resistance is the number of bricks that lie at the bottom of the river. This comparison makes it much easier to understand what elektricity really is. 


Penicillinase shows a high affinity with the β-lactam group of penicillin and breaks down the amide binding. The acyclic penicillin therefore no longer inhibits the peptidoglycan synthesis. 


Penicillinase recognises the four-ring of penicillin and cuts it open, which can now no longer be recognised by the DD-transpeptidase. Consequently, it can no longer disrupt the peptidoglycan synthesis. 

Don’t exaggerate

Don’t exaggerate with metaphors and images. Use images or comparisons that are easier than your original explanations. Don’t hold on to that particular metaphor to explain everything if you feel that it’s not really working out.

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