Even if you’re not working on a paper or grant proposal today, you’ll probably communicate about science. You’ll send an email to a colleague, chat with your PI, or present a paper at lab meeting. In every case, you’re trying to convey an idea or change someone’s mind, and that’s why it’s so important to communicate clearly.
This week, we invited David Shifrin of Filament Life Science Communication and the Science Writing Radio podcast to share his top four tips for what he calls “non-technical writing.” That includes those emails, conversations, and presentations you’re doing every day of the week.
Here are the tips he shared on the show:
- Define your audience: Create each piece of content for an “audience of one” and don’t try to be all things to all people.
- Define the problem: Focus, try to convey one main idea, and support it with every sentence.
- Less is more: Use white space, don’t feel compelled to tell everything you know, and edit yourself ruthlessly.
- Tell a story: Data is critical, but data only makes sense in the context of a story. Use emotion, story arc, the hero’s journey, etc. to engage your audience.
David has a 15-point checklist to improve your scientific communications on his website. Check it out at http://www.sciencewritingradio.com/hellophd/
Freaks of Nature
The ethanol took on mythic proportions this week. David sampled the Rompo Red Rye Ale from Jackelope Brewing Company in Nashville, TN. They describe a “rompo” as “a mythical beast with the head of a rabbit, the ears of a human, the front arms of a badger, and the rear legs of a bear.” Magically frightening!
Josh and Dan couldn’t find that locally, so they drank a beer with a head of hops, the ears of hops, the front arms made of even more hops, and the rear legs of a bear who died from an overdose of hops. It was the Freak of Nature Double IPA from Wicked Weed Brewing in… wait for it… Asheville, NC! It’s like Nashville, but headless. See what I did there?