Sitting down to write

  1. Make a plan. Think about the points you want to make. Do some of them naturally group together into themes? What’s the most important thing? Are they all necessary? What’s the best order for them to go in?
  2. Picture a real person. Think of an intelligent friend or family member who doesn’t work in science. By making it clear enough for them, you’ll make it clear for everyone.
  3. Write with your ears. Writing doesn’t have to happen on paper or keyboard. Try recording yourself speaking off-the-cuff first, then transcribe it, noticing what words and phrases you use. Read your final version out loud to yourself or someone else and listen to what it sounds like.
  4. Do the ‘at a glance’ test. Even before you read your piece, does it look inviting or off-putting? Is it broken up into short, simple sections with lots of white space? Or does it look dense and like it’s going to be hard work?
  5. Cut your first draft by 25%. Setting yourself a target forces you to be more ruthless at cutting unnecessary words.
  6. Keep a list. When you hear a useful expression or explanation of a subject you write about a lot, make a note of it. Pretty soon you’ll have a collection of useful ‘thought starters’ and you’ll never have to start with a blank page ever again.