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Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

Writing Brings the Ocean Back to Life

Beautiful corals, that were once vivid, colorful, and teeming with life, are facing their

toughest obstacle yet; an obstacle created by you and me. Some may wonder, how are we

causing majestic corals to become lifeless and dully monochromatic? The answers lay in the way

we live. From driving cars to powering factories, we pollute the air with carbon dioxide which is

then absorbed by the ocean; this changes the ocean’s chemistry and ultimately kills the species

living in it. While many humans contribute to the demise of beautiful coral reefs, some fight to

preserve them. Marine conservationists use writing as a weapon to defend the coral reefs; these

activists aim to inform people about ocean acidification and hope to ignite a social change in the

way people live. Writers in this topic achieve their goals by avoiding the use of opinionated

writing when presenting facts, using elevated language to establish credibility, and asking their

readers’ questions to incite self-reflection.

Writing in the discipline of natural sciences, and specifically the topic of ocean

acidification, is rarely characterized by an opinionated writing style. Elizabeth McLeod, a writer

and researcher studying ocean acidification, exemplifies how writers in this topic avoid

subjective language when presenting facts to their audience. For example, in the article,

“Preparing to Manage Coral Reefs for Ocean Acidifications: Lessons from Coral bleaching”,

Mcleod explains, “Ocean surface waters absorb 25% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere

annually by human activities, lowering the pH level of seawater ad resulting in substantial

changes in marine carbon chemistry” (Mcleod 1). In this passage, it is evident that Mcleod
Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

presents factual information while refraining from the use of first person, a point of view

associated with subjectivity. We have to remember that Mcleod’s goal is to inform her audience

about ocean acidification, with the hopes of convincing her readers that action must be taken to

preserve the ocean. If Elizabeth were to say something like, “I think that ocean acidification is

negatively impacting coral reefs”, it would make the information seem opinionated rather than

factual, which would prevent the accomplishment of her rhetorical purpose. Mcleod makes the

decision to present facts without first person so that the audience perceives the information as

true: ocean acidification is actually destroying coral reefs. First person is avoided in writing

concerning ocean acidification because presenting unbiased information causes the audience to

comprehend that the consequences of ocean acidification are real and that change needs to be

made to prevent further damage to ocean ecosystems.

Another expert writer in the field of science, Professor Bryanna Kunkel, agrees that first

person is generally avoided in scientific publications. When interviewing Professor Kunkel about

“good” characteristics of writing in science, she responded, “papers are typically written in third

person and without the use of ‘I’. First person just makes findings seem fabricated. Papers

typically start with an explanation of the problem and why it is important to understand”.

(personal communication, May 6, 2019). Professor Kunkel’s description of writing in science

agrees with the claim writing, in the topic ocean acidification, usually excludes subjective

language. The use of third person is essential to writing in the topic of ocean acidification,
Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

however it's not the only quality that characterizes writing in this topic. Although first person is

heavily avoided, there is an exception: using first person to ask the audience a question.

Many authors who write about ocean acidification use first person to ask the reader an

insightful question with the purpose of igniting a social change. In the article, “Ocean

Acidification”, the author poses questions directly to the reader since questions encourage

readers to reflect on their actions. For example, the writer begins his article questioning, “Might

a penguin’s next meal be affected by the exhaust from your tailpipe?” (Journal of College

Science Teaching, 1). In this passage, the author directly asks the reader a question. This

question incites a realization in the reader: the carbon dioxide emissions from a car can

negatively impact the lives of all species, especially marine life. This realization oftentimes

inspires the reader to pursue a lifestyle that conserves the ocean’s species and ecosystems. To

bring this point full circle, the writer in this article poses questions to encourage his/her readers

to change habits that damage the environment. That being said, questions are used as a tool in

this writing style, mainly to accomplish the goal of convincing the reader that a change in

lifestyle is necessary to save our oceans.

Like the writer of “Ocean Acidification,” Elizabeth Mcleod calls on her readers to ignite

a social change. Even though Mcleod avoids using first person to present facts, she still poses

questions to the reader with the purpose of prompting her audience to reflect on themselves. For

example, Elizabeth solicits, “How do species, communities, and habitats vary in their sensitivity

to changes in ocean chemistry?” (Mcleod 2). By asking this question, the writer allows the reader
Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

to ponder “hmm do my actions really contribute to changes in ocean chemistry? If so, how do

my actions affect both species and ecosystems?” Mcleod asks questions so that the reader

reflects on how he/she contributes to ocean acidification. This type of self-reflection often times

inspires the reader to take initiative and change his/her habits that harm the ocean’s ecosystems.

In short, Mcleod employs the usage of questions to accomplish the goal of inspiring her audience

to make a change that will prevent ocean acidification. Questions are prevalent in scientific

writing styles, however, the most prevalent characteristic in this type of writing is formal


A renowned author and researcher in ocean acidification, Joan A. Kleypas, exemplifies

how formal language is employed and demonstrates why it is a key characteristic in scientific

writing. For example, Kleypas explains, “Ocean acidification has been found to affect the

fecundity and quality of gametes that are produced” (Kleypas, 4). In this example, words such as

“fecundity” and “gametes” demonstrate a sophisticated writing style which excludes slang.

Kleypas writes using elevated diction to establish credibility since formal language is associated

with intelligence. Establishing credibility is important because credibility determines whether or

not your readers believe you and your writing. The author uses a sophisticated writing style to

convince her readers that ocean acidification has detrimental effects on calcium-based

ecosystems, especially beautiful coral reefs. Kleypas’s purpose is to explain the effects of ocean

acidification and to convince readers that something must be done to prevent this; she

accomplishes her goal by establishing her credibility.

Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

Establishing credibility is important when trying to convince an audience to believe

something; this is done by using sophisticated language. Elizabeth Mcleod demonstrates how she

uses formal language to establish that she is a credible source and convince her audience to

conserve the ocean. McLeod addresses her audience with the opening statement, “Ocean

Acidification is a direct consequence of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations

and is expected to compromise the structure of coral reefs within this century” (Mcleod 1). This

passage shows that the author avoids the usage of slang and attempts to use more sophisticated

vocabulary; words, such as “compromise” and “consequence,” depict how Mcleod utilizes

elevated language. Mcleod writes with the purpose to inform her readers about the consequences

of ocean acidification, and to captivate her audience’s attention, she must demonstrate she is a

credible source of information. Mcleod employs the usage of formal language to give the reader

the impression that she is knowledgeable and a reliable source of information and, by developing

her credibility, her audience will be more likely to act on the information she provides them. The

usage of formal language and elevated diction allows Mcleod to accomplish the goal of all

writers in the topic of ocean acidification: to inform the audience about its consequences and to

inspire a change in the audience’s lifestyle. So, all in all, how does formal language, questions,

and third person preserve a coral’s vivacity?

As mentioned before, ocean acidification transformed once beautiful corals into bleached

calcium structures, destitute of life. Earlier I asked, how does formal language, questions, and

third person preserve a coral’s vivacity? The answer is simple: writers in the topic of ocean
Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

acidification employ the use of these techniques to convince society that a change needs to be

made to save corals and the many species inhabiting the ocean .In conclusion, experts in this

field, including Mcleod and Kleypas, use formal language, third person, and questions with the

intent of informing their audiences about ocean acidification and convincing them that action is

necessary to bring our oceans back to life.

Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019

Works Cited

1. KLEYPAS, JOAN A. “Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine

Biodiversity.” Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere, edited by


University Press, NEW HAVEN; LONDON, 2019, pp. 185–195. JSTOR,

2. “Ocean Acidification.” Journal of College Science Teaching, vol. 41, no. 4, 2012, pp.

12–13. JSTOR,

3. Mcleod, Elizabeth, et al. “Preparing to Manage Coral Reefs for Ocean Acidification:

Lessons from Coral Bleaching.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, vol. 11, no.

1, 2013, pp. 20–27. JSTOR,

4. Kunkel, Bryanna. (6 May 2019). Personal interview.

Katherine Dang

Masha Fedorova

Writing 2

16 May 2019