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Secrets of good science writing | guardian.co.uk

May 13, 2011

The Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2011 is asking for submissions so they (in association with the Guardian and The Observer) can determine who the next generation of great science writers is! You do have to be based in the UK, so I won’t submit. But even readers outside of the UK can get some great writing advice from preeminent science writers.

For example, Henry Gee, a senior editor for Nature, provides some excellent rules for writing, complete with humor:

Rule 3: Stick to the point

Many years ago when the world was young (OK, it was about 1998), I was deep in the draft of In Search of Deep Time, my first book intended for the popular science shelves (still available in the proverbial All Good Bookshops, folks). Page after glowing page of peerless prose erupted from my pen. The words were flowing like a very flowy thing. I sent the draft to my editor. It came back, and — the horror! — the same passages I’d loved so much had been struck out, page after page, to which my editor had appended four words that pierced me to the heart. Those four words were:

‘And Your Point Is …?’

This is all about discipline again. If you enjoy writing (and if you are reading this, the chances are that you do) it’s important to keep to the point. Planning your essay in advance is always a help. List the points you want to make, in logical order. Such lists are always too ambitious, so list them again, leaving half of them out. As my editor told me later: ‘Henry’, he said (that’s my name: Henry). ‘Henry, just Tell The Story’. Never a truer word like wot she is spoke.

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