Quick tips to improve your writing NOW!

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It should be obvious by now that writing for the sciences is much different than for the arts and humanities (though it doesn’t have to be), and learning the distinctions requires practice. In this list I’ve included several obvious and perhaps not so obvious tips for improving your technical writing skills immediately.

  1. Outline – I’m not talking about the big, clunky, traditional outline you are used to constructing, rather a lean and crude list of the important points and ideas you want to convey. Getting your points on paper as simple, clear statements makes it easy to arrange a rough script to use for your first draft.
  2. Learn how to open strong and finish stronger – If you want someone to read your second sentence, you have to get them past the first. And don’t coast to the finish, hit them as hard on the way out as you did on the way in!
  3. Use simple and clear language – it’s that simple…
  4. Draft – Get it out as quickly as possible. Turn off the internal editor and use your script to complete a rough draft. It won’t be perfect and that’s not the goal here. You will clean it up later.
  5. Revise, revise, revise! – This is where most of the writing happens, and is your opportunity to cut, add, combine, refine… If you did a good job with your initial outline, everything should be there, you just need to get it into shape. I often go through 3, 4, or 5+ revisions before I share my ‘rough draft’ with anyone.

Want more? I found one of my favorite resources by accident several years ago and I find myself going back to it when I need a nudge or friendly reminder. And then there’s a guy named Vonnegut and his thoughts on writing better. Or OrwellHemingway anyone?… you may have heard of these guys…

Comment (1) Add yours ↓
  1. nharmuth

    These tips are extremely helpful, and I think the most important point to focus on is #1. When I originally wrote my post reacting to the molecule of the week assignment my draft was absolutely horrendous. I conveyed the completely wrong idea and my writing had such a negative connotation. Dr. Kassel had me sit down with him and write a list of the points I was trying to make, and while they were all in my original post in some form or another actually seeing them laid out in a list made my ideas much clearer to me. I strongly suggest trying this approach for at least one of your posts. I guarantee it will help and you’ll see an immediate improvement in your writing style.

    29 September 2008

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