Stephen B. Heard

Mar 21, 2022

The Scientist’s Guide to Writing

How to Write More Easily and Effectively Throughout Your Scientific Career, 2nd ed.

Princeton University Press 2022

Listen to this interview of Stephen Heard, Professor of Biology at the University of New Brunswick. We talk about his book The Scientist’s Guide to Writing: How to Write More Easily and Effectively Throughout Your Scientific Career, 2nd ed. (Princeton UP, 2022), we talk about writing when it's a verb, we talk about writing when it's a choice, and we talk about writing when it's the science.

Stephen Heard : "Especially for early-career scientists there's a risk of their writing entering into a positive feedback loop with the writing as it is in the literature. And really, we do this to them, we professors and instructors. We say, 'Next week, you're going to hand in a lab report. Write out this experiment you did,' and we say, quote, 'and write like the scientific literature,' unquote. Well, that's a horrible thing to tell anyone to do, because unfortunately, much of our literature isn't particularly well written. We love our acronyms, we love really long noun phrases, we love the passive voice, and so on. And so, people who don't make conscious choices and just sort of model what they're writing on what's already out there — I think they sort of get locked into some of those bad decisions, like the five-noun noun phrase. So being aware of what you're doing, thinking about the language you're using, and being willing to use the language to its fullest — that's not an invitation to write your own Finnegans Wake — but it is an invitation to think carefully about the way of constructing your point that will resonate best with the reader."

Readers may be interested in Heard's webpage for the book. 

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I am committed to helping scientists write at their best. To this end, I founded the Graduate Communication Services, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany. Here I work in the unique role of textician. Want to know more? Contact me at
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