BLOG: Jane Yook Jeong In participated in our ‘Successful science writing and editing’ course, delivered by trainer Kath Kovac. Jane is an Honours student at the Research School of Psychology, ANU, and recently spent time at Biotext as an intern. Most of her writing experience is academic, and she is currently writing her dissertation about face processing and how we perceive computer-generated faces relative to real faces. She has also written for Unimelb Adventures and the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang. Successful science writing and editing is a 1-day course designed to hone the ability to convey complex information clearly. Here, Jane shares her experience on the course.
‘We often overlook how exciting writing can be – if only it didn’t require so much effort. It can be a difficult process! Good writing takes patience and a lot of insight. Most professionals would agree that, while they have a wealth of technical knowledge, the biggest challenge is effectively communicating it to the rest of the world. This comes down to the misconception that good science writing, or technical writing, must be complex. Through the Successful science writing and editing course, I have come to realise that the opposite is true, and here I share a summary of the secrets of success.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the recent training open-course – it was the perfect opportunity to complement my time at Biotext where I had just begun to learn all about science communication. I walked into the boardroom and found myself sitting alongside a group of pharmacists, microbiologists, science editors, agricultural experts and medical writers. I knew this was going to be exciting.
My biggest takeaway was going back to the basics. Kath encouraged us to see technical writing without its embellishments, where ‘plain ole English’ is a writer’s biggest asset. That is, using simple language, shorter sentences, and an active voice can make a big difference. Case in point: which sounds better? ‘The actor’s state of appetitive arousal’ or ‘the animal is hungry’.
Although jargon and elaborate words may sound impressive, they are ineffective if they don’t convey information directly. This particularly resonated with me. I was coming from an arts background where I gained a habit of using fancy words to indulge my passion for the abstract world. I also really wanted to impress my gender studies tutors! But good writing doesn’t need to be complex.
A personal highlight of the course was working as a team throughout the day. Some participants brought in their written work to share with the rest of us. These were laboratory reports, news articles, guidelines and comprehensive reviews. From this, I learned that good technical writing is created for a specific audience. It is written to be read. It is written in a way that makes sense to the readers, to communicate exactly what the readers are looking for in the text.
The course was perfectly structured, and Kath is a true role model for what a science editor should be. She is a natural facilitator, and her engaging, down-to-earth manner was refreshing. Before this day, writing was like an elephant on my dinner plate: How would I go about eating the whole thing? I dreaded it and regularly made excuses to avoid it. Since the training course, I have grown to view writing as an active conversation between my audience and myself. It’s a process, of building and crafting and more shaping. It’s taking one bite at a time.
I would highly recommend this course to professionals and students working with scientific or medical texts and technical documents, as I can assure you that the course will exceed your expectations. You will learn all the ‘hot tips’ in each stage of planning, drafting, editing and visualising that could bring your work to the next level.’
Expressions of interest are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org