Tips for better science writing

Writing is a significant component of the work of a scientist. We must communicate what we learn about the world to others, including both our scientific colleagues and the general public. The writing tips listed here may help students with their writing.

Important concepts and ideas - Focus attention on the important concepts and ideas related to the subject. Extraneous details should be left out.

Writing style –

  • Passive voice is often used in science writing (not “We often use passive voice for science writing”). Writing should sound stilted and formal to your ears. If your writing does not sound overly formal, your writing is probably not formal enough.
  • First person pronouns are generally not used in scientific writing. What is important is what happened, not who did it. (“The star was observed to increase in brightness” rather than “I observed the star to increase in brightness”).
  • Use simple language. Scientific writing should be clear, concise, unambiguous, and accurate. Use the most appropriate words (which may not be the biggest words!), and don’t use three words if one will do the same job. Skip the $5 words! The goal is clarity.
  • Contractions are not used in scientific writing. “Don’t” use them!
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs – be quantitative where possible. (Not “The star is very hot” but “The star has a temperature of 20,000 K.”)


  • □ Include enough information so that the reader can understand what you are presenting.
  • □ Organize material logically
  • □ Use specific, informative language
  • □ Omit unnecessary or distracting information
  • □ Check grammar, spelling, punctuation