Just like a bad first date, a good first sentence is best kept short. Dr. Evelyn Strauss, science writer and editor, shared her writing secrets as a guest speaker for Professor Mimi Koehl’s graduate seminar, “Communicating Science to the Public.” With experience in writing for magazines and journals such as Science, Scientific American, and Current Biology (just to name a few), Dr. Strauss expertly divulged the challenges of science writing and techniques that we, as scientists, can harness while taming our own science-writing beasts. May your readers make it to the second date, id est the second paragraph.
Dr. Strauss revealed what personal characteristics paved her path as a science writer: for instance, she enjoys learning about topics beyond her field of expertise. Her uncanny ability to write about science in layman’s terms makes it to understand. Although she conducted freelance work without formal writing training, Dr. Strauss was led by curiosity to investigate what writing “secrets” were being disclosed in the science writing courses at UC Santa Cruz. With her experiences in the classroom and in the real world, Dr. Strauss skillfully addressed the field of science writing while visiting Berkeley.
As an exercise, the participants wrote a “press-release” paragraph to bring to the seminar. We were faced with the impending doom of hearing our first sentence read out loud, twice. Mine was particularly long, so doubling the time necessary to read it reinforced the importance of a short and simple first sentence for engaging readers.
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