Tag Archives: science writing

AHCJ freelancers contribute to new book on science writing

Several AHCJ members are part of a new book, “The Craft of Science Writing,” which was published at the beginning of February. The 300-pager, available for $10 as an ebook and $25 as a paperback, is a collection of articles from The Open Notebook, which covers the stories behind science writing.

Among the more than 35 contributors, AHCJ members include Christie Aschwanden, Jeanne Erdmann and Kendall Powell. You’ll also recognize The Open Notebook editor Siri Carpenter, Washington Post health editor Laura Helmuth, New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer, and many more. Continue reading

Horgan finds reasons to be optimistic about science writing

In yet another sign of the much-discussed science writing renaissance which may or may not be upon us, Scientific American‘s John Horgan blogs that – despite the still-dire economics of reporting on health and science – the young folks entering the profession give him ample reason to be optimistic about the future.

The occasion? The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s science writing awards, for which he has often been a judge.

This year [Columbia staff] sent me more submissions, 35, than in any of the previous dozen years I’ve served as a judge. The admissions were also better than ever. And as I told the J-school grads last week when I handed out the awards, I’ve never said that before — or if I did, I was lying. Some of the submissions were so well-written and reported that it was hard to believe rookies produced them, not seasoned pros.

Horgan was particularly gratified to find that so many of the entries were in a critical vein, revealing the limits and consequences of technology rather than simply trumpeting the triumphs of science. Of this year’s three winners, AHCJ members likely will be most interested in Elliot Ross’ work on ghostwriting in the pharmaceutical industry, which was picked up in a condensed form by the Guardian.

Miracles and paradigm shifts: Banned words

Writer Carl Zimmer has posted an “Index of Banned Words” in science writing. Zimmer’s list grew out of one he compiled for his science writing class that has since been expanded by reader suggestions.

Some words and phrases that made the list:

  • Missing link
  • Seminal
  • Impact (verb)
  • Demographic leveling

Zimmer clarifies that he doesn’t mean these words should never be used but that writers need to learn to explain science in ways that people can understand:

What I mean is that anyone who wants to learn how to write about science, and to be read by people who aren’t being paid to read, should work hard to learn how to explain science in plain yet elegant English – not by relying on scientific jargon, code-words, or meaningless cliches.

So what words and phrases should be banned – or at least require some thought before using – in health journalism?

(Hat tip to NASW’s “On Science Blogs this Week“)