We all have our pet peeves. One of mine is New Year's resolutions. And, in fact, this year I resolved not to be so peeved by…ah…

No, seriously, one of my pet peeves is ambiguity. I try to avoid it in my writing, by writing plain and simple English. Some readers might suggest that as a plain and simple writer perhaps that is all I am capable of. But, I do try to avoid constructing overtly elaborate sentences and hope my writing avoids grandiose verbiage that some might see as me trying to be too clever, but generally just feels fake and pretentious. (Please note the intrinsic irony in my writing in this particular piece).

Anyway, sometimes ambiguity is inherent in the words people use. Do a search for chemistry on Twitter, for example, and most of the hits that come back seem to be about something called "on-screen chemistry" or "chemistry in the locker room". Presumably, these phrases are alluding to actorial or character compatibility in the latest movie or the team spirit and camaraderie of sports players. Usually, though if I am searching for chemistry, I am looking for the scientific sort, the physical, the inorganic, the organic…

Oh, and there's another example, "organic". That word hijacked by those hoping for a healthier world by avoiding chemicals and going organic. Whereas to my chemist's ear and eye, it's just those compounds - carbonates and carbon dioxide/monoxide aside - that contain carbon atoms. But searching for organic news often brings back results pertaining to soil and chemical-free farming and food. As if anything of substance can be chemical free.

Materials too, awkward. Searching for the generic term in a scientific context is not so much a dead-end as a leap from a cliff into the great unknown because it has so many more connotations than the stuff about which we write in this journal. Similarly, the word matter matters...there are others.

Oh, and another New Year's resolution I never made was not only to attend to ambiguity but to avoid alliteration in my writing…seems I failed on that one too.

David Bradley blogs at Sciencebase Science Blog and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the bestselling science book "Deceived Wisdom".