Skip to main content

021: The 4 simple tips that will make your writing stand out

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.

Write Right

science writing
Carol went on to win the Nobel Prize for her work on keeping chalk boards relevant in the 21st century.

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 available for download! 

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?


3 thoughts to “021: The 4 simple tips that will make your writing stand out”

  1. Josh and Dan, thanks for a great conversation!

    Since it’s Thanksgiving week here in the States, I thought I’d throw out one more place where you’re likely to get into non-technical communications: the table. Follow those four points we talked about on the show and you’re much less likely to put Great-Aunt Helen to sleep at Thanksgiving dinner. You know she’s going to ask the inevitable question, “Are you curing cancer? What is it exactly that you do?” If you can avoid phrases like, “ligand,” “one-way ANOVA,” and “analysis of multiple loci selected from epigenome-wide association led to quantification of DNA methylation levels by bisulfite pyrosequencing,” you’re at much lower risk for the embarrassment of seeing your beloved elderly relative pass out face first into her cranberry sauce.

  2. Hello Josh and Dan, this is a very good podcast.

    I know this is years later, but I am trying to access the material from the podcast.
    The following link is not available:
    Is it possible to get this information? I also tried to check the website, it is also
    not available. If you can provide an alternative source to grab this information,
    it would be really helpful for me.

    Thank You,

    1. Vibhatha,

      Yikes! That site is gone! I reached out to our guest to see if he has a copy of the file. I’ll let you know as soon as we can track it down.

      Thanks for writing, and be safe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.