We held a series of writing workshops in the spring/summer of this year. Over three sessions, members of our team, along with guest behavioral scientists and science writers, shared tips and ideas for becoming a better writer. We covered clarity and cohesion, identifying potential outlets, how to craft memorable hooks and meaningful intros, and more. You can learn more about the sessions and access the recordings here.
As a supplement to the workshop, we’ve compiled our favorite writing resources. Below, you’ll find resources on topics like the mechanics of writing, pitching and writing opinion pieces, embedding stories, the ins and outs of book editing, and the art of writing.
When it comes to writing resources, nothing is unique and no resource list can cover everything. Our goal with the selections below is to provide a manageable set of high-quality resources that you can draw from. Some of the resources are aimed at a specific group, like scientists or journalists, but they all offer solid advice, regardless of your background. So if something catches your eye, don’t be afraid to dive in.
We hope you find the resources useful. If you have any favorite resources you would like to share with us, or would like to send us a message, please contact us here.
—Evan Nesterak and Cameron French
The workshop series was supported by a teaching grant from the Association for Psychological Science and donations from readers/participants. If you found the sessions or the list of resources helpful and would like to donate to support Behavioral scientistplease go here.
The mechanics of writing
- Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace
By Joseph M. Williams and Joseph Bizup
This is our favorite resource for understanding how abstract concepts like clarity and flow are executed on the page. There are a number of editions, and the latest may be a bit pricey but worth the investment. Earlier editions will do and be cheaper.
- Why Academic Writing Stinks and How to Fix It, and Other Writing Essays
By Steven Pinker, Michael C. Munger, Helen Sword, Rachel Toor, Theresa MacPhail, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Five engaging essays explain common technical writing pitfalls and how to avoid them, including “Why Academic Writing Stinks and How to Fix It” by Steven Pinker, “10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly” by Michael C. Munger and ” Becoming an ‘Elegant’ Writer” by Rachel Toor.
- Scientific writing: guidelines and tips
By Carl Zimmer
The New York Times science columnist and author of 14 books shares notes from the journalism class he teaches at Yale University. The notes cover the structure and style of solid scientific writing, as well as some additional writing tips.
Align ideas with points of sale
- Align Ideas on Point of Sale Worksheet
We’ve put together a brief worksheet to help professionals who want to write for a popular audience think about who they want to reach, possible outlets, and their core value proposition for the article. (This is a companion to Session 2 of our Spring/Summer 2022 Writing Workshop. You can view the recording of the session here.)
- A database of successful pitches
By The open notebook
In addition to the Nieman Laboratory article on what not to do, see The open notebooks database of successful pitches.
- MIT Communication Lab Editorial Guide
This guide from MIT describes the structure of an op-ed, offers tips for writing one, and provides several annotated op-eds that have been published in major media.
Writing and publishing books
- Publisher Marketplace
Don’t be fooled by the website which looks like it dates back to the early 2000s. other industry news.
Other writing tips and training resources
- NPR Training Portal
NPR’s training portal is comprehensive and free. You’ll find a range of resources, such as how to interview, a style guide, ethics tips, and more.
On the craft of writing
- “Draft No. 4”
By John McPhee
A series of eight essays on the art of non-fiction writing by author and Princeton professor, John McPhee. You can read the eponymous essay here on the new yorker.
- On writing: a memoir of craftsmanship
By Stephen King
“Part memoir, part masterclass by one of the best-selling authors of all time, this superb volume is an eye-opening and practical view of the craft of writing, including the basic tools of the trade that every writer must have.”
- Bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life
By Anne Lamott
“For a quarter of a century, more than a million readers – scribes and doodlers of all ages and abilities – have been inspired by the hilarious, kind-hearted and simple advice of Anne Lamott. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom transmitted by Anne’s father, also a writer, in the emblematic passage which gives its title to the book:
“Thirty years ago, my older brother, who was ten at the time, was trying to get a bird report written that he had taken three months to write. It was for the next day. We were outside in our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table on the verge of tears, surrounded by binder paper, pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the enormity of the task at hand. . Then my dad sat down next to him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, mate. Take it bird by bird.