My team and I are drafting a technical report to summarize the methods and results of a pilot study we recently conducted. After drafting a handful of sections, I passed them off to our supervisor for revisions and suggestions. One comment he repeated several times was that parts of my text sounded "too conversational." I think he meant that I didn't sound professional or academic enough. He also suggested revisions that increased the word count and complexity of the sentences without adding any additional meaning. I disagree with those comments and I don't like the suggested edits, and here's why:
I always strive for clarity and brevity. I avoid using slang or colloquialisms, but I never add extra words (or extra-technical words) just to "sound smart." I believe that sometimes (always?), simple language is best. I also believe the impenetrable "academic" writing style of many scientists is a major shortcoming - it only hinders communication among scientists and isolates us from the public, who can't make sense of what we're trying to say. The higher word counts, more complex sentence structures, and lack of additional meaning in the revisions were a clear sign (to me, at least) that he was taking things in the wrong direction. I know there's room for subjectivity, but I honestly think the sentences I crafted are just better - and I don't want to trash them.
So, how can I respond politely to my supervisor without ruffling any feathers? If I were to defend my writing, I feel like I'd be calling his own writing skills and workplace authority into question. At the same time, I take pride in my writing and I want my published documents to reflect that.
And in a broader sense, how can we as writers rebut our editor's/supervisor's/thesis advisor's criticisms when we think they are clearly misguided? I don't think we should just "go along with it" and let them sully our writing, especially if our own names will be on the published document. How have other authors in the community approached this problem?
Edit: here's an example. My writing:
When the difference between unique observations was greater than 10% water cover, or when cover percentages did not equal 100%, points were discarded.
23 words, one sentence.
Try To reduce sampling bias, input data points were removed when variance was greater than 10% between independent observations. Input data points were also removed if the percent cover class did not equal 100%.
33 words, two sentences. The only additional meaning added here is "to reduce sampling bias, which could be added to my sentence if it was important (IMO it's already obvious, given the context).
Anyways, two days later I'm not really as worked up about it anymore. This particular example was one of the most egregious, and in hindsight it doesn't seem like my text is near-perfect or that his edits are really that much worse. However, I still think this is an important question, and one I have been dealing with for a long time. This stuff comes up too often, because a lot of people in science just don't seem to care about writing, or they think they care but they never do anything to actually improve. So, I'm asking for help in this specific instance, but also for guidance on how to handle these situations more generally.