Use Parallel Structure to Guide the Reader

Getting What You Want from Your Science Writing Part X

computer_keyboardParallel construction signals to the reader that two ideas are of equal importance. If two or more ideas or items are connected by a coordinating conjunction such as “and”, “but” or “or”, then those ideas should be expressed in parallel or equivalent grammatical constructs. Items and ideas of equal importance should be presented using equivalent grammatical structures. Items in a list should be parallel: all verbal phrases, all nouns, etc. Parallel construction guides your reader and helps your reader organize concepts on a first read of your text. Continue reading “Use Parallel Structure to Guide the Reader”

Help – The Squirrels Have Given Me Writer’s Block!

Anyone who has ever had to write anything has probably experienced something they considered “writer’s block”. Term papers, creative writing assignments, grant applications, papers for publication, Christmas letters, monthly reports, blog entries, grocery lists – the potential victims of writer’s block are never ending.

Recently, fellow blogger and writing advice-giver extraordinaire, Michele, presented a brief workshop on writer’s block to a group of Promega bloggers. Part of her presentation focused on personality-type centered causes and cures of writer’s block. Continue reading “Help – The Squirrels Have Given Me Writer’s Block!”

Editing for Rhythm and Flow in Writing

My first project, a scarf for "Floppy Dog".

Updated 5/14/2020

For a while now I have made a living knitting words, stringing them together with a rhythm and flow to create a finished piece that has some kind of meaning. Recently I started learning how to knit yarn together with a rhythm (ideally) that will bring the loops and knots together into some kind of finished whole that has meaning: a scarf, a hat, a dish rag. And just like the clacking of knitting needles can relax and de-stress you, the clicking of the keyboard when your writing is in rhythm can be a joyful experience.

The rhythm and flow of language is important in all types of writing, including scientific writing. If your language has a consistent rhythm and flow, chances are your reader will be more likely to understand it on a first read.

Continue reading “Editing for Rhythm and Flow in Writing”

A Salute to Pens– No One Will Ever Say “The Keyboard is Mightier Than the Sword”

I admit it, I am a pen addict. I have a weakness for beautiful and often expensive writing instruments. I come by it naturally. My mother’s father had a whole range of fountain pens (including a Sheafer fountain pen in a stand that now sits on my desk at home). My father was always trying the latest, greatest writing tool. Remember the erasable ball point pen of the late 1970s? Everyone in my family had one. So you see, there was no hope for me; it was in my genes from both sides of the family.

My husband had me figured out long before we got married. For our wedding he gave me a beautiful walnut jewelry box and a Waterman fountain pen. Anyone who knows me will tell you I love jewelry, and fountain pens are really just jewelry that you write with. Continue reading “A Salute to Pens– No One Will Ever Say “The Keyboard is Mightier Than the Sword””

Genomics, Cellomics and…Poetryomics?

Poems On the Underground is an annual project that has been a part of London life since the mid 1980s.  It is also one with which I have a personal connection—my father used to work for The British Council which cosponsors the project (1).  Every year a selection of poems authored by literary greats such as William Blake, William Wordsworth and Wendy Cope are carefully selected for publication on London Underground trains (1).  For many a rush-hour traveler, these short poetic nuggets will inevitably engage the mind perhaps temporarily drawing it away from the monotony of a working day.

The world of bioscience has recently latched onto a similar craving for all things poetic and creative writing-related.  Sponsored by UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), The Human Genre Project is the name chosen for a new initiative that aims to tap into the writing abilities of the public at large with a specific focus on genes and genomics (2,3).  Continue reading “Genomics, Cellomics and…Poetryomics?”

Rescue the Verb!

Getting What You Want from Your Science Writing IV: Rescue the Verb!


When I wrote for my courses in college and in graduate school, my target audience was my professor, so I wrote to impress. To sound “smart” I nominalized verbs, used passive voice and as much jargon as possible. This is the kind of writing that complex scientific topics require. Right?

Continue reading “Rescue the Verb!”

Accepted Without Revision

computer_keyboardScientists are as likely to feel the smart of rejection as any other kind of writer. You slave over experiments trying to make sure that they have the proper controls to account for every possible artifact. You finally head to the computer keyboard and transcribe months, sometimes years, worth of labor into a few pages of text with some figures: your opus, which you send off on a wave of electrons to some distant editorial figure. And then you wait. Continue reading “Accepted Without Revision”