Good Science Writing: Clear, Engaging Words That Make Us Want to 'Take a Peek Behind the Curtain'

i-b759c33daf27a39ada243e9c473556f8-Natalie Angier Photo.jpg

Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Natalie Angier has spent her entire career
translating complex scientific research information into engaging, stimulating
prose that the average person can understand.

In fact, says Marcela Valdes of Publisher's Weekly: "She is the kind of woman you
wish you'd had beside you in high school chemistry--tiny, ferociously intelligent,
she'd eye you over a boiling beaker and explain exactly what the experiment was
all about."

Simplicity, clarity, passion, vivid imagery, combined with an uncompromising
respect for scientific accuracy are the hallmarks of Natalie's writing as she helps
readers navigate their way through the complex, ever-changing and always
fascinating world of science.

"Trying to elucidate the ideas of science to others -- that's what drives me," says
Natalie whose impressive compendium of writing has covered the breadth of
science, ranging from the Big Bang and interstellar space travel to medicine,
genetics, evolutionary biology, human behavior, insects, and the animal kingdom.

Her writings have not only taken the form of numerous magazine, newspaper
and essay pieces, but also four major books -the most recent one being The
Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science. This work examines
fundamental concepts of modern scientific thinking, giving readers fascinating
insight into major scientific disciplines -- including physics, chemistry, biology,
geology and astronomy-- via interviews with researchers who explain what they
wish everybody understood about their work.

Says Natalie: "To really understand scientific ideas, readers need not just facts,
which anyone can find on the Internet. They need an overarching narrative that
pulls facts and ideas together into a cohesive whole."

Natalie got her first break in science writing at age 22 when she was hired as a
founding staff reporter and writer for Discover, the science magazine that Time
Inc. launched in 1980. In the 1980s she also worked as the senior science writer
for Time magazine; an editor at the women's business magazine, Savvy; and a professor of journalism at the New York University's Graduate Program in Science
and Environmental Reporting.

And then In 1991 - just 10 months after starting as a science reporter for the
New York Times -- she won a Pulitzer Prize in the category of Beat Reporting,
for a series of 10 feature articles on a wide array of scientific topics. These
included: the biology of scorpions, disputes over the Human Genome Project, the
importance of parasites in evolution, and mating habits in the animal kingdom.

Read more about Natalie here.

Watch an interesting video about her below.

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So how did Natalie become such an excellent writer in such a technically challenging field? I see, from Wikipedia, that she majored in Physics and English, but what is it about her training that helps her to convey the story so well?

When I try to write a research article I try to wrap it into a nice 'story'. My first draft is usually quite colloquial and is probably more interesting to the non-experts of the field. By the final draft it's been diluted down into more academic-friendly verbiage and it's lost some of its personality. It makes for a better research article for sure, but it definitely loses something along the way in my opinion.

I'm interested to read more of her stuff and to learn specifically about what she does to write better and to tell a better story. Thank you for bringing this wonderful writer to my attention!

Sometimes science writing and publishing can involve multiple people. Peer reviewed journals can be tedious due to requests for additional experimentation. They are not always necessary and prolong publication. Here is an article that explores this dilemma and possible solutions to it.