Science for the Public and more…

Posts tagged ‘scientific information’

How to Write a Good Sentence

Joan Y. Edwards (my favorite blogger)

It is imperative to have a subject and a predicate to make a complete sentence. In other words, your sentence has to have a noun and a verb.

I love the quote from Joyce Griffith, Griffith Publishing “How long should a sentence be? As long as it needs to be, but no longer.”

Two of my blog articles listed below have memorable lines from movies or books. It is a great idea to find good sentences and share them in a blog post or with your writing group(s). I am excited that Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalvo said, “Make a collection of your favorite sentences from anywhere.”

I think it’s a good plan to note the book, magazine, newspaper, movie, television show, or person who said them. For comparison and to help you recognize when your sentences aren’t up to par, list bad sentences and sentence fragments. Share them in a blog post or with your writing groups.

I have heard people say to learn to write a picture book, copy the words of your favorite. My granddaughter, Kylie Hackett, says she can write better when she writes things in her own handwriting. Many writers swear to this technique.  They write their first drafts with pen or pencil and paper.

Try writing down at least 3 of your favorite sentences from best-selling books in longhand. It may unleash your senses and make connections with your brain to create wonderful sentences. Then write your own sentence about your story and your characters using that same pattern.

Here’s a sentence from a best-selling book, Middle Passage by Charles R. Johnson. I like its structure and sound:

“Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.” I found it on Ranker.com. It has listings of first lines, videos, and links to buy, too.

I rewrote this sentence to fit two of my current works in progress: I didn’t use longhand. I typed them into the computer.

Of all things that drove Lisa to thoughts of death, the most serious one was her pregnancy.

Of all things that enticed Aunt Sophie to make biscuits, the most effective one was a smile.

Another webpage I recommend to study sentences is Story Starters.  When you click on the button in a box on the page, it shows you a great opening line for a story. Try it. It’s number 12 in the Related Articles. Each sentence is original and clever.

If you have 50 good sentences and one bad sentence on a page, it ruins your credibility with readers. The readers may close the book. You say, “Not just for one error.” You may be right. However, if there are more than three bad sentences on one page, I believe the reader will close the book.

There’s one thing that might keep them in regardless of the errors, that is curiosity about what is going to happen to your main character. Make your writing intriguing and coherent. Put all parts of the story together in a logical order that makes the story easy to understand. Each sentence in your story must be necessary to highlight character, plot, problem, solution, setting, or weather. If the sentence doesn’t move the plot or story along, cut it out and save it in a ‘Great writing but not necessary for this story” folder.

There are many places where it is essential to have strong sentences that hook the readers:

  • At the beginning of the book in the first chapter.
  • At the beginning of each chapter.
  • At the end of each chapter. It has to lead readers to wonder what will happen on the next page.

Unless you are writing flash fiction, it is important not to put your whole story in one sentence. Charles Dickens had extremely long sentences with 100 words or more. I noticed one page had only two paragraphs on it. A manuscript page has 250 words. If each sentence had 100 words in it, one paragraph might take up more than one page. Most of the J. K. Rowling Harry Potter books have sentences of 40 words.

Here’s a lesson to learn from these two writers. Not all of their sentences were long. Some were short, others were middle length. They varied their sentences in the descriptive text and in the dialogue. A sentence with punch is usually a short sentence or a phrase of dialogue that might not be a complete sentence. They put short sentences to add tension and punch to their stories. They put long sentences in between crisis situations. That made it seem like everything was going along smoothly.

Do that with your writing, too. Vary the length and structure of your sentences to keep your reader’s attention.

Radio likes simple sentences, rather than compound or complex. Simple for the ear. You don’t have to put the whole story into one sentence. However, flash fiction tells a story in as few words as possible.

What do I mean by structure? A sentence is simple, compound, or complex.  Here are examples:

  • A simple sentence has one subject and one verb.
    John ran to the store.
  • A sentence can have a compound subject.
    Harry and John ran to the store.
  • A sentence can have a compound verb.
    Jill cut and pasted the labels.
  • A complex sentence has one independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
  • A phrase is a group of related words that does not have both a subject and a verb
  • An independent clause is a group of related words with a subject and a verb and can stand by itself.
  • A dependent clause does not express a complete thought. It does not have a subject and a verb. A dependent or subordinate clause standing alone is a common error known as a sentence fragment.

Phrase (Sentence Fragment): The town in the center of the state
Phrase (Sentence Fragment): Lemon merengue pie on the shelf
Phrase (Sentence Fragment): In the corner

Compound sentence: The eagle landed and it shook its feathers.
Complex Sentence: Before the eagle landed, it shook its feathers.

Compound sentence: The skies darkened and the town slept.
Complex sentence: When the skies darkened, the town slept.

Compound sentence: The clock stopped and the people died.
Complex sentence: Once the clock stopped, the people died.

Good sentences keep your readers in the book from the beginning to the end. Good luck with your writing.

Related Articles:

  1. Dena Harrison, Northern Writing Project Nevada and Writing Fix.com “Little Red Riding Hooks:” http://writingfix.com/PDFs/Writing_Tools/Little_Red_Riding_Hooks.pdf
  2. Ehow.com. “How to Write a Main Idea Sentence:” http://www.ehow.com/how_2063892_write-main-idea-sentence.html
  3. Ehow.com. “How to Write a Topic Sentence:” http://www.ehow.com/how_5489760_write-topic-sentence.html
  4. Geoffrey Williams.
  5. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Elements of Literature, Second Course, “Varying Sentence Structure:” http://go.hrw.com/resources/go_mk/la/latm/EOL807SW.PDF
  6. Joan Y. Edwards. “First Lines from Non-Fiction Best Sellers:” http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/first-lines-from-non-fiction-best-sellers/
  7. “How Many Words Should Your Sentences Contain?” http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/how-many-words-should-your-sentences-contain/
  8. Joan Y. Edwards. “Memorable First Lines:” http://joanyedwards.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/memorable-first-lines/
  9. Joyce Griffin. “How Long Should a Sentence Be:” http://jgwritingtips.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/how-long-should-a-sentence-be/
  10. Margot Carmichael Lester. Elance.com. “Punching Up Your Copy:” http://www.elance.com/q/blog/2010/punching-up-your-copy.html
  11. My English Teacher.net. “Sentence Fragments:” http://www.myenglishteacher.net/sentencefragments.html
  12. Newswriting for Radio.com. “Broadcast Sentence Structure:” http://www.newscript.com/sentence.html
  13. Northern Writing Project Nevada and Writing Fix.com. “Story Starters: Powerful Sentences:” http://writingfix.com/right_brain/Story_Starting_Sentences1.htm
  14. Ranker.com. “100 Famous Novels with Catchy First Lines:” http://www.ranker.com/list/100-famous-novels-with-catchy-first-lines/info-lists
  15. Ranker.com. “Middle Passage.” Read more at http://www.ranker.com/review/middle-passage/7105436#iSiCdfPAxRr8flPI.99
  16. Scholastic Professional Books. Step by Step Strategies for Teaching Expository Writing. “Main Idea Story Starters:” http://ch086.k12.sd.us/Science%20Fair/main_idea_sentence_starters.htm
  17. Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalvo. “Sense, Sensibility and Sentences: Examining and Writing Memorable Lines:” http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/sense-sensibility-and-sentences-examining-and-writing-memorable-lines/
  18. Sheila Allee. Ragan.com. “Add Punch to Your Speeches in 6 Easy Steps:” http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/Add_punch_to_your_speeches_in_6_easy_steps_45218.aspx#
  19. WritingFix and the Northern Nevada Writing Project. “Story Starters: Powerful Sentences:” http://writingfix.com/right_brain/Story_Starting_Sentences1.htm

 

Self-publishing; Is the Stigma Disappearing? Should It?

 

            Self-publishing has always had a stigma attached. Why is this? Mostly because we were taught in school that anything published has been thoroughly checked and edited by “those who knew more than we did, specialists of some kind.” That may have been true of our textbooks, which were written and edited by specialists in their fields.

As we became adults and, at least some of us, became teachers, writers and editors, we tried our hand at publishing and found out how hard it was to attract the eyes of a publisher, let alone land a publishing contract. Some of us continued to butt our heads against that publishing wall until we were, at least, moderately successful. Some gave up, thinking it wasn’t worth the effort. The third segment saw the modern availability of publishing technology as a way to go around the traditional publishing roadblock. It afforded low cost publishing (CreateSpace and many others), free way to get public attention (Amazon—you and several million other authors) and you kept all the profit and didn’t have a garage full of inventory and shipping to handle. A sweet deal, right?

Not so fast. You are a specialist in the subject you are writing about, right? You researched the topic extensively beyond your bookshelf and the local public library, right? (No offense to public libraries here.) You had someone besides your best friend or your grandmother edit your work, right? You have a marketing and business plan, which goes beyond Amazon, right? You have a brand, right? A what?

Let’s look at these issues in the order they are listed:

  • You are a specialist in the subject about which you are writing. You don’t have to have an advanced degree in the topic about which you are writing unless you a claiming your work to be the final word on the topic. Be sure you acknowledge somewhere your limitations.
  • You researched the topic extensively beyond your bookshelf and the local public library. There is nothing wrong with using the resources you have on hand—just don’t stop there. Your local librarian will give you suggestions as to where to get more information on your topic. Beware of the internet. Use it with caution. Much information is there, unfiltered and unchecked—anybody can put anything there, whether or not it is valid.
  • You had someone besides your best friend or your grandmother edit your work. Your best friend and your grandmother are fine people and they have your best interest at heart. However, they are probably not editors and, even if they are, they are biased to see your work as better than it actually is. Choose someone, better to ask two or three people, who are experienced writers, editors or English teachers to read your work critically. You should welcome criticism—it means you are on the way to having a quality piece of work.
  • You have a marketing and business plan, which goes beyond Amazon. Amazon is great at what it does. It makes works available to anyone who can get near a computer and has a few bucks to buy a book. But that’s as far as it goes. How will anyone know your book is there, except your family and friends who have heard you talk about it every chance you get? They won’t. You are competing with at least a hundred million other titles, admittedly not all on your topic, but that won’t make your book any easier to find.

Your marketing plan will provide a roadmap for you to follow to get attention for your book and should include some or all of the following:

  1. Your website,
  2. Your blog,
  3. Your other social media sites (Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, Instagram)
  4. More traditional materials, such as bookmarks, business cards, postcards, flyers,
  5. Radio and TV spots,
  6. Other signings and speaking engagements.
  • What is this brand of which you speak? Your brand is your personae as a writer, specifically as the writer of your particular book on your particular topic. You must make yourself known by what you have written. Everything in the list immediately above works together to brand you. Acknowledge it, work with it, use it.

Does this sound like more than you are capable of doing? It may be. It is a lot of work. Even the large publishers require more promotional work from their authors than they used to. It’s a fact of life.

Now, what about the stigma? It isn’t as bad as it once was. Does that mean self-published works are better than they were at one time? Yes and no. Yes, some experienced authors are going the self-publishing route. What they learned from being associated with higher quality editing and their natural maturity as writers has paid off, for them as writers and us as readers.

Yet, in large part, one often can spot a self-published book within the first page or two. Layout is strange, sometimes disjointed with lots of white where there should be print; typos, spelling and grammatical errors appear with distracting regularity. (CreateSpace does not edit the work). Yes, you do see typos in works published by the large publishers but nowhere near as many.

There you have it, my take on self-publishing. You self-publish at your own risk. If you are hoping for the next best seller, better get a large publisher.

Published in: Outdoors Unlimited August/September 2016

Five Ways to Make a Sentence More Concise

Expressing oneself clearly and concisely in speech is a challenge because one has so little time to order one’s thoughts and choose one’s wording carefully, but writing is easily improved with even the briefest review. Always read over what you have written (whether it’s a tweet or a book manuscript) before you distribute or publish it—not only to adhere to the mechanical basics of grammar, syntax, usage, and style but also to check for narrative flow and conciseness. The following sentences, and the discussions and revisions that follow each one, include advice for paring unnecessary words and phrases.

1. As you establish your policies, it is recommended that you develop a comprehensive list of business activities.

When offering recommendations, avoid overly polite entreaties, and simply state the advice as an imperative: “As you establish your policies, develop a comprehensive list of business activities.” (Other words that signal an expendable phrase are advised, suggested, necessary, and imperative.)

2. Nearly all of the processes and steps conducted during this phase were planned in the early stages.

In “all of the” phrases, of is almost always optional, and the can often be safely omitted as well: “Nearly all processes and steps conducted during this phase were planned in the early stages.”

3. IPO activity has increased over the past few years, and that presents a great advantage for the company.

Be alert for opportunities to condense sentences consisting of two independent clauses into a simple statement. Here, what was an introduced observation is recast as an acknowledged phenomenon, changing the subject from “IPO activity” to “the increase in IPO activity”: “The increase in IPO activity over the past few years presents a great advantage for the company.”

4. Organizations can realize tremendous value from risk management in a cost-effective and efficient way.

The presence of way (or manner, or basis, or any similar vague noun) at the end of a sentence signals a sentence in need of abbreviation. Simply dismantle the phrase that ends with the noun and convert the adjectives that precede the noun into adverbs: “Organizations can cost-effectively and efficiently realize tremendous value from risk management.”

5. There are core sets of critical activities and critical communications that must be performed at this stage.

When a sentence or clause begins with an expletive (“There is/are” or “It is/They are”), consider omitting the phrase and beginning the sentence with the noun or noun phrase that follows (and delete the now-extraneous that that follows the subject): “Core sets of critical activities and critical communications must be performed at this stage.”

Taking Conciseness Too Far
Be cautious, however, about overzealous conciseness, as in the case of multiple nouns and noun phrases stacked in a dense swarm of words. Relaxing a sentence can be just as effective as tightening it in improving a sentence:

Overly concise: Executive management and board of directors’ expectations about scalability can be unrealistic.
Relaxed: The expectations of executive management and the board of directors about scalability can be unrealistic.

From: Daily Writing Tips

New Books for Reluctant Readers Coming in July…

My reluctant reader series “The Aquitaine Reluctant Reader Series”
will kick off in July with Book 1, “Looking at the Cat; an Eye on Evolution”, written for kids in Grades 9 – 12 who can read but don’t like to read.
Cat Book Cover-3

Save

Writing Science for the Public

It’s no secret that science has a PR problem. Scientists, it seems, are generally viewed as cold and competent but not warm and trustworthy. According to social psychologist Susan Fiske of Princeton University, a person’s perceived warmth strongly influences how much they are trusted. This presents a problem for scientists, especially in an era when funding, research impact, and science literacy rely so heavily on communicating effectively with a broader audience. Even when seeming warm and trustworthy could help their message be heard, it can be hard for scientists to shake the “cold and competent” stereotype. The authoritative and unemotional way that scientists are taught to write for journal articles usually is not appropriate when communicating with a general audience. Learning the principles of journalistic nonfiction often requires scientist authors to step away from an academic writing style that has come to feel intuitive. Nevertheless, using these styles can make the scientist’s work more relatable, memorable, and trusted.

Here are some tips:

  1. Write for the readers—Scientists tend to aim their writing toward what they think their colleagues want to read. This is a natural reflex—after all, that’s the audience they’re accustomed to thinking about when they write journal articles and grant proposals. But a scientist’s colleagues will be a minority of the readership of a magazine article. Try to step back, review your own assumptions, and broaden your view of who your audience really is.
  2. Use your audience’s lexicon—Introduce only the terms essential to your story and no more. Even certain words likely to be familiar to readers, like “dynamics” or “mitigate,” should be avoided just because they sound jargony and can have different meanings in different fields. Look for alternatives that are more direct. At the same time, avoid talking down to your audience. Sometimes scientists try too hard to make sure everyone is on board. It sounds like they’re talking to middle schoolers, a big turn-off to most readers.
  3. Your first sentence must be indelible—Leave your impression early. Many academics start with something more like a broader impacts statement or an obvious foundational concept in their field, as they would in a journal article. But if you tell readers something they already know in the first sentence, they are likely to think you have nothing to say that they don’t already know. You risk losing readers right then and there. If your article contains news of major breakthroughs, many of your readers will completely miss it.
  4. Know where you are taking the reader first and then tell themShow them—within the first page, provide them with a story that illustrates what is at stake and sets the scaffolding for your thesis. Your reader is busy and has lots of other things to read. They will not read your article unless you immediately let them know why they should, and fine prose is one of the quickest ways to focus your reader’s attention.
  5. Each subsection and paragraph is a potential pathway into the text for a scanning reader—Each paragraph should introduce an interesting new idea with a topic sentence.
  6. Questions generally make poor topic sentences— Framing the topic as a question can be a hard habit to break. But in narrative nonfiction, posing questions instead of stating the topic outright risks leaving out crucial information, such as who is asking the question, why that individual cares about it, and how it was first raised. Introducing how the line of inquiry arose in the first place is usually an important part of a science story.
  7. Each subsection needs to transition the reader from one idea to the next— As a section concludes it should signal why the next section follows. Transitions are the key.
  8. Stop listing things—just stop!—Try instead to figure out the narrative tying the pieces of a list together. Used profusely in academic and government writing, lists are an efficient way of communicating points or variables. But they’re dry and can be a real slog for a reader. All too easily, they become the place where readers’ eyes will glaze over and they will start flipping to another part of the magazine or return to scanning social media. A more intuitive way to communicate such ideas is to talk about how the objects of the list are connected to one another. It might take an extra sentence or two, but the reader will grasp the concepts more readily and remember them better.
  9. Use the first person—Even though the desire to avoid the first person often comes from a sense of humility, text that is essentially autobiographical but avoids first person doesn’t necessarily sound humble. It just sounds impersonal. Readers will stop reading quickly if they don’t feel connected with the people or places in the story.
  10. 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—When scientists rattle off statistics but do not talk about how they connect to people’s lives, they risk coming off as cold and distant. Anecdotes may not have a place in science writing, but they are absolutely essential to journalistic and literary nonfiction.
  11. Avoid passive voice and clunky sentence structures—Although passive voice is not uncommon in scientific journal articles, it sounds distant, abstract, and stuffy. Today’s readers have very little patience for slogging through wordy writing because you’re competing with short communication in the social media.
  12. 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—Any article needs a conclusion, but one very different from the kind you might write for a typical journal article. Narrative nonfiction conclusions return to the intrigue, suspense, or line of inquiry the writer established to draw the reader further into the article, providing a sense of closure and wrapping up any loose ends. The conclusion is not just a repetitive summary of everything the article has just said. Try to find some forward-looking insights that show greater context for your work.

When it Makes Sense to Self-publish

A writer, simply put, is one who writes. Everyone who writes on a regular basis is considered a writer whether or not they have ever been published.  An author however, is generally perceived as a writer who has been published. For some writers, it is enough that they write, publishing their work is not their goal. For most writers, however, the goal is to become a published author. The trick is being published. You have many options. Which one should you choose? Let’s look at your options:

A self publisher, is an author who gets a business license, buys the ISBN #s, hires a printing press (print shop/printer) to print the books, than sells the books themselves. The author keeps 100% of the profits, because no one pays royalties; you keep 100% of the copyright (which btw, does not cost a penny). You market the book and distribute the book yourself through local bookstores, a personal website, your blog, and on online bookstores, such as Amazon.com.

Motives for self-publishing

There are a number of reasons that writers choose to self-publish, although one of the most common is that their work is not of interest to a commercial publisher. Publishers must be confident of sales of several thousand copies to take on a book. An otherwise worthy book may not have this potential for any number of reasons:

  • Author wishes to retain complete editorial control over content,
  • Author is unknown and does not have substantial resume,
  • Popular topic but of interest only in a small geographic area or
    addresses an obscure topic in which few people are interested,
  • Content is controversial enough that publishers do not wish to be            associated with it,
  • Author wishes to obtain a larger percentage return from retail sales.

Occasionally authors choose to self-publish for reasons of control, because they want access to their customer list, or because they love the business of publishing. When working with a publisher, an author gives up a degree of editorial control, and sometimes has little input into the design of the book, its distribution, and its marketing. This has been a substantial motivator in the rise of comic book self-publishing. In the late 1970s, creators such as Dave Sim and Wendy and Richard Pini chose—in spite of offers from publishers—to publish their work themselves because they wanted to retain full ownership and control over it, and they believed they could do the job of publishing more effectively than a publisher that did not have an ownership stake in the material. This was facilitated by the development of comic book specialty shops, and the distribution network that serves them, which is more open to small- and self-publisher material than traditional bookstores have been. Numerous cartoonists have followed their example since then, and by the late 1990s, the majority of comics (in terms of titles) were self-published. They remain a small percentage of overall sales, however, with sales of a given book often falling short of 1000 copies. A similar movement took place in the music industry during the same period, coming largely out of the punk rock phenomenon, as some musicians eschewed deals with record labels and published their own recordings.

In addition to the issue of control, some authors with limited markets may also self-publish to obtain a better financial return. Authors in a specialist area may be confident of a certain number of sales but also realize that the maximum number of sales is limited, and wish to maximize their earnings. In this situation authors may risk a significant amount of their own capital to self-publish their own work. This avoids a publisher taking a significant cut of the proceeds and if also self-distributed avoids distribution fees as well. The payoff is a much larger percentage of the sale price being returned as profit.

In recent years, television writer and producer J Michael Straczynski has self published an extremely successful series of books containing his scripts for Babylon 5, his most famous television creation.

Self-publishing is the publishing of books and other media by the authors of those works, rather than by established, third-party publishers. Although it represents a small percentage of the publishing industry in terms of sales, it has been present in one form or another since the beginning of publishing and has seen an increase in activity with the advancement of publishing technology, including xerography, desktop publishing systems, print on demand, and the World Wide Web. Cultural phenomena such as the punk/DIY movement, the proliferation of media channels, and blogging have contributed to the advancement of self-publishing.

 As a general rule, self publish only if you are writing one of the following:

  • Short story anthology,
  • Book of poems,
  • Technical journal (which will only be read by a 100 or so college professors),
  • Non-fiction niche market (work on an obscure organism),
  • Local history book or local field guide,
  • A play,
  • A memoir or biography of a local ‘celebrity’,
  • Church/business/family cookbook
  • Any book or pamphlet of local interest only.

 

Et al.

Origin of et al.

Latin et alii (masculine), et aliae (feminine), or et alia (neuter)

That is why et al. is used—simpler, right?

Tag Cloud