I’m gearing up for the latest offering of my Scientific Writing course, and that’s got me thinking about my (metaphorical) red pen. As scientists, we spend a lot of time commenting on other folks’ writing. I do it extensively in my writing course, but I also do it for my grad students writing thesis drafts, for my coauthors, for my colleagues who want friendly review of manuscripts and proposals, and for other colleagues when I’m a peer reviewer. I’m also often on the other side of the exchange, as my own drafts get marked up by coauthors, colleagues, and reviewers. I’ve been in this game for a while, and one thing I’ve learned is that most of us wield our red pens instinctively rather than deliberately. And that’s not a good thing. Continue reading
Writing is hard, and over the years I’ve developed a bunch of tricks that make it a bit easier for me. Some are weird, some are complicated, and some are idiosyncratic enough that they probably work only for me. But if I had to pick one trick that could work for just about anyone, I’d pick one that might seem too simple and too obvious to be worth mentioning. It isn’t, though. It’s this: pay attention to the topic sentence.
Wait! Don’t click away just yet. Yes, you learned about topic sentences in high school (so did I). Continue reading