Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Chapter 10 Introduction


Here we take a look into the horse’s mouth, or sit in the editor’s or professor’s armchair, as it were. If it is not obvious to you yet it will be soon: not only English teachers care if your writing is stylish and correct—your professors care, employers care, and magazine and journal editors certainly care. This chapter offers proof. There is plenty of stylistic advice available out there in trade publications and the scientific journals themselves, indicating that editors and journal readers do indeed expect clear technical writing from those who submit work to them. In this chapter I have harnessed just a small sampling of the good advice that is out there awaiting you. Below is a quick summary of the chapter’s contents.

"Comments From the Geological Society of America Bulletin Editors" reviews the pet peeves of journal editors in the geological sciences.

"Advice to Scientist Writers: Beware Old ‘Fallacies’" helps us to reconsider basic writing practices that we sometimes hold as truths when they are not.

"Precise Writing for a Precise Science" is written by a professor of chemistry arguing for the relationship between clear communication and clear science.

"The Universal Recipe, Or How To Get Your Manuscript Accepted By Persnickety Editors" is by a veteran journal editor sharing his insights about what makes a scientific article publishable.

"The Science of Scientific Writing" is a methodical deconstruction of science writing to the point of generating seven practical maxims that science writers can apply to their work.


For some additional excellent advice on science writing, turn to these websites:

"Handouts & Demos" page from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina

"Writing Technical Articles" page from Columbia University