Writing Science in Plain English
Writing Science in Plain English
Scientific writing is often dry, wordy, and difficult to understand. But, as Anne E. Greene shows in Writing Science in Plain English,writers from all scientific disciplines can learn to produce clear, concise prose by mastering just a few simple principles.
This short, focused guide presents a dozen such principles based on what readers need in order to understand complex information, including concrete subjects, strong verbs, consistent terms, and organized paragraphs. The author, a biologist and an experienced teacher of scientific writing, illustrates each principle with real-life examples of both good and bad writing and shows how to revise bad writing to make it clearer and more concise. She ends each chapter with practice exercises so that readers can come away with new writing skills after just one sitting.
Writing Science in Plain English can help writers at all levels of their academic and professional careers—undergraduate students working on research reports, established scientists writing articles and grant proposals, or agency employees working to follow the Plain Writing Act. This essential resource is the perfect companion for all who seek to write science effectively.
136 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2013
Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
"In these 124 brisk pages, Greene manages to deliver a series of practical, hands-on lessons to make scientific prose more lucid, more direct, more immediately comprehensible, and, yes, more concise."
"A great resource for anyone preparing to embark on scientific writing—whether a paper for class or a research article submitted for publication."
"Greene’s feet are placed firmly on the ground. Her recommendations are widely applicable, and the solid ideas presented in this book should influence good use of English in any situation. Scientists should treat Writing Science as a user manual to keep their writing on track."
Journal of Scholarly Publishing
"Why must the scientific literature be as confusing and dull as an insurance contract or a manufacturer’s warranty? It doesn’t have to be like that! Writing Science in Plain English can teach any scientist how to write more compelling and lucid papers. Anne E. Greene deserves a round of applause from scientific editors, peer reviewers, and readers everywhere."
David S. Wilcove, Princeton University
“This is the best book of this sort I have read. Anne E. Greene practices what she preaches, writing clearly for a general scientific audience. She comes across as both highly knowledgeable and accessible. Greene makes achieving clarity look simple, and I found myself marveling at her wizardry. Readers will find the text empowering.”
Gina Maranto, University of Miami
"Writing Science in Plain English should be required reading for both established scientists and undergraduates who might become scientists. Anne Greene uses plain English and instructive examples from the scientific literature to show student writers how to say what they need to say more concisely, more accessibly, and more effectively. Would that all writers followed her advice."
John Alcock, Arizona State University
“This guide echoes the advice I have given to students in scientific writing classes over my career. It rebuts the notion that science writing is different in kind and exempt from the rules that apply to other non-fiction writing: it requires strong narrative direction, active voice, strong verbs, short words where possible, and so on. This lucid, step-by-step book should be required reading for entering graduate students in the life sciences, and will be a welcome addition to the instructor’s reference shelf.”
Steven W. Buskirk, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Table of Contents
1 Why Write Science in Plain English?
2 Before You Write
3 Tell a Story
Make Characters Subjects and Their Actions Verbs
Use Strong Verbs
Place Subjects and Verbs Close Together
4 Favor the Active Voice
Benefits of Active Voice
Proper Uses of Passive Voice
5 Choose Your Words with Care
Use Short Words Instead of Long Ones
Keep Terms the Same
Break Up Noun Strings
Rethink Technical Terms
6 Omit Needless Words
Metadiscourse and Transition Words
Affirmatives and Negatives
7 Old Information and New Information
Put Old Information at Beginnings of Sentences
Put New Information at Ends of Sentences
8 Make Lists Parallel
9 Vary the Length of Your Sentences
10 Design Your Paragraphs
11 Arrange Your Paragraphs
General to Specific
Least Important to Most Important
Problem to Solution
Compare and Contrast
Transition Words Revisited
Appendix 1 Basic Writing Concepts
Appendix 2 Exercise Key
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