The only thing harder than doing science is writing a peer reviewed paper that may end up in a journal that no-one has heard of, such as JOT, Journal fuer Oberflaechentechnik.
While enrolled as a PhD student, I had lots of feedback on my writing style. The feedback always included encouraging stuff like “strange”, “inconsistent” and “not an actual sentence”. Academic writing, just like wiping your bum, needs to be practiced before you get any good at it. The bad thing about academic writing however, is that your mum may not be able to take over half way through.
It’s important to practice your academic/technical writing skills so that the next time you need to write a heartfelt note in a card for someone at your workplace, you will be able to make it unambiguous and dry – just like the cakes they made and you had to pretend were moist. Here are Andy Matter’s top tips to ensure academic writing is as painless as possible:
- Start a blog. The artificially enhanced level of self-importance you will feel is the perfect catalyst for writing to a journal editor.
- Your writing style should intimidate the reader – keep the language dense and technical as if you are a beat poet reading from an instruction manual for a jet engine.
- Get constant feedback from supervisors and mentors about how you can improve. They’ll absolutely love tearing your writing apart in order to fill the hole in their heart from years of writing research grant applications. Nothing feels quite like seeing the chapter you spent hours writing peering at you from behind a tangled mess of red pen. Don’t worry though, the feeling never changes but you’ll get used to it.
- Remember, even though the paper you’re writing means a lot to you and your feelings of self-worth, a surprisingly large number of articles are never cited (27% of natural science papers are not cited) and even when your pride and joy does get cited, it may be in the “insert generic reference here” category.
Good luck, and I am sure with practice you will do OK (insert generic reference here)
(post dedicated to Simon)