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Archive for November, 2015

Scientists Writing for the General Public

Here are 12 editorial tips for scientists:
1. Your first sentence must be indelible.
2. Know where you are taking the reader first and then tell them.
3. Each subsection and paragraph is a potential pathway into the text for a scanning reader.
4. Questions generally make poor topic sentences.
5. In the same vein, each subsection needs to transition the reader from one idea to the next.
6. Stop listing things—just stop!
7. Use the first person.
8. If you want people to understand that a problem addressed by your research affects real people, you need to illustrate the problem by telling a story about real people.
9. Use your audience’s lexicon.
10. When you feel you are done writing, don’t just stop in your tracks once you’ve added the last bit of information you’d planned to include.
11. Avoid passive voice and clunky sentence structure.
12. Know your audience and write for the readers.

From: New Scientist

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Quick tip: how to write a good cover letter

1. Check the journal’s Instructions for Authors,
2. Check to see if the journal’s Instructions for Authors have any requirements for cover letters, e.g. disclosures, statements, potential reviewers.
3. Then, write a letter that explains why the editor would want to publish your manuscript.
Common phrases:
a. Please find enclosed our manuscript, “[manuscript title]” by [first author’s name] et al., which we would like to submit for publication as a [publication type] in [name of the journal].
b. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing…
c. We believe our findings would appeal to the readership of [journal name].
d. Please address all correspondence to:
e. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
4. All cover letters should include these sentences:
a. We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal.
b. All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal].

Six Reasons Editors Will Reject You

1. LAME START
Whatever’s good about your book should be good on page 1, or very few editors are going to get to page 2. If you can’t figure out how to make the beginning of your book compelling, you’re probably not writing a compelling book.
2. ERRORS OF IGNORANCE
Although no one loves a typo, it’s close to impossible to eradicate every single little mistake in a manuscript. Typos are usually forgivable (except in a query letter). But what’s not really forgivable is using words or phrases whose meanings you obviously don’t understand.
3. OVERLY LONG PROPOSALS AND MANUSCRIPTS
Editors read tens of thousands of pages of submissions per year, in their spare time. On weekends, at night in bed, on vacation. If you think any one of them wants to read a 90-page book proposal, you’re out of your mind. Whatever you need to say in a book proposal, say it in less than 30 minutes of reading time. I honestly can’t remember ever rejecting a single proposal for being too short (and I acquired a few books whose proposals were 0 pages long). Say what needs to be said, not more.
As for fully written manuscripts: an editor once confided to me that she refuses to read manuscripts that are longer than 400 pages. None. Automatic reject. And although her stance is the exception, she might be the exception who would acquire your novel if you could trim 150 pages of flab.
4. MARKETING, PUBLICITY & SALES IDEAS
Many writers feel compelled to include a section of business-oriented ideas in their pitches or proposals. “My book should be merchandised in the front of the store, in a stack next to the register.” “Window displays would be a natural fit.” “The Today show and The View are perfect publicity venues for this book.” “You know Restoration Hardware? Or Starbucks? They should put my book on their coffee tables.” These are not helpful, actionable suggestions. They’re insults to everyone who spends their professional lives making and selling books.
5. COVER & INTERIOR DESIGN IDEAS
If you managed to procure a try-out to pitch for the New York Yankees, would you show up to the stadium and present the scouts with a redesigned uniform (“Pinstripes are so 1977!”), and a proposal to move from the Bronx to Coeur d’Alene? Of course not. Shut up and throw your best fastball.
6. THE HARD SELL
Editors are hoping—they’re desperate—to love it. Every time they pick up a new project, what’s in the front of their minds is, “I hope I love this.” It’s their jobs to find something new to love, and their careers are doomed if they can’t. But here’s a type of thought that never, ever pops into an editor’s head: “Oh, well, Joe Schmo says right here in his query letter that his debut novel An Incredibly Great Book is unputdownable and that he’s the next John Grisham, so we should probably just write the eight-figure check now, before he signs with Amazon.” Don’t tell editors how great your book is. Just make it great.

From: Chuck Sambuchino

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