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The Craft of Scientific Writing Paperback – September 1, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0387947662 ISBN-10: 0387947663 Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 3rd edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387947663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387947662
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

From review of the first edition
"This book offers effective methods for improving writing efficiency and overcoming difficulties during the preparation of technical information."
Robert L. Schmitt, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Wisconsin

"A refreshing addition to a genre dominated by English teacher-style textbooks. Instead of listing rules that constrain writers, the book uses examples to lay out the path to successful communication … Especially helpful (and entertaining) is the chapter on the writing process. Anyone who has spent more time avoiding a writing task than actually doing it will appreciate Alley's tips."

–Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations, Johnson Space Center


More About the Author

Holding a master of science in electrical engineering from Texas Tech and a master of fine arts in writing from the University of Alabama, Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Penn State. He is the author of The Craft of Scientific Writing, 3rd ed., and The Craft of Scientific Presentations, 2nd ed. (2013). Over the past twenty years, he has taught writing and presenting to scientists and engineers across the United States and in Europe, Asia, and South America. Sites include Penn State, MIT, Virginia Tech, the University of Texas, the University of Illinois, Harvard Medical School, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore Lab, United Technologies, Areva Nuclear Power, the Army Corps of Engineers, Simula Research Laboratory (Norway), the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway), the European Space Organization (Chile), the University of Sao Paulo, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Seoul National University, the University of Osaka, the University of Oslo, the University of Barcelona, and the University of Seville. Alley's web-site on writing is the first Google.com listing for the topic of "engineering writing" and his web-site on speaking is the first Google.com listing for "presentation slides." When not writing or teaching, he can be found hiking through forests with his wife and dogs.

Customer Reviews

It will help you to become a better writer.
Mostyn
Alley's writing style is straightforward, making the book easy to understand.
planktongrl
Very useful for both not English speakers or the native ones.
A. M. Contreras

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've had this book for many years, and I still pull it out to use it. It is a light read, and not the style guide of other technical writing manuals. What is unique is that it points out the usual ruts we all get into, like redundant or overly complicated sentence construction. By giving 'before' and 'after' writing samples, it is easy to see how much better a few changes make. I have gotten more out of this book, in terms of being a better technical writer (I'm a systems engineer), than I have out of any other book. I also like the reference section in the back about proper word usage (ex: affect vs effect). The book also covers illustration do's and don'ts. If you want style guide info, you will have to look elsewhere. But to improve the clarity of your writing, this is the book to get.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Mostyn on January 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The goal of writing in science is to communicate information. Unfortunately too many people in science, including myself, write in a manner that is little more than unintelligible. Having read this book, I now feel sorry for the people who had to read my work. Too much scientific literature is poorly crafted and it is only natural that newcomers try to science emulate this poor style.

As a reader of scientific literature, I always though there was something wrong with me because I could not read the articles. I would get stuck on a passage and, no matter how hard I tried, I would not be able to get past it. Now I know that this is because the writing is poorly crafted.

The Craft of Scientific Writing gives an appreciation of the flaws that we all make in our writing. There are plentiful examples of poor writing, which are contrasted with good writing styles. Also, the explanations are clear and easy to understand.

Despite appearances, there is no rule, man-made or natural, that says that scientific writing cannot be clear, crisp and fluid. If you write any kind of scientific literature do yourself a favour and read this book. It will help you to become a better writer.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Cristian Atala Bianchi on August 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a good book to start with. The book gives an outline of the structure and rules of scientific writing. The tone is always funny yet always complete and usefull. It is full with practical examples that complement the text. The only drawback is that most examples -not all- are taken from engeneering and similar sciences and thay may sound extrange to biologist or scientists from other areas. I would recomend this books to young scientists and students that are looking to improve their writing skills.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By planktongrl on November 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
We (the GeoWriting class at OU) recommend this book to beginning scientific writers. Alley's writing style is straightforward, making the book easy to understand. The chapter titles are precisely labeled, allowing one to quickly locate information on specific stylistic problems. Furthermore, Alley writes the way he tells us to write; far from being hypocritical, he practices what he preaches.

Specifically, Alley makes it clear to younger scientists that it is okay to write short sentences. His use of specific examples helped us be more fluid and concise in our writing. He also gave specific advice on how and when to include details, which was an area we had trouble with.

Aside from improving our writing, this book was also useful in understanding how read and critique other papers by providing examples of common mistakes. Naturally, for our own writing, Alley also gives ideas on how to fix those mistakes. Compared to textbooks from other writing courses we've taken, this book includes useful information, rather than merely giving writing examples (e.g., short stories).

On the downside, Alley's examples often focused too much on engineering applications; he should have included more examples from other sciences. At times the examples are also too long and it seems like Alley goes off on a tangent. Finally, while figures used are relevant to what is discussed, the lack of color makes them boring.

Overall, this book is more readable, but less dense than the average textbook. It is worth the money for a course text. We certainly got $12 worth of information out of it.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Steve M. Potter on December 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Substantial book, with lots of actual examples of both good and bad scientific writing to learn from (you will learn about solar power plants!). Practical advice galore. My only minor quibble is that it does seem like a monograph (which it is), and thus is only one person's opinions about some key issues that are subjective in nature, such as how to deal with 'writer's block'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J.A.C. on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brief, concise and to the point, that's how I would describe this book. It has tips, examples and useful advice. However, From time to time it may be too general and personally I would like more examples and details (other than the ones they have), but its enough to give you simple and useful rules so you can write and don't look like you're six years old!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Whitcher-Johnstone on April 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book for those of you who are inexperienced scientific writers. I am really struggling with scientific writing right now. Finding this book has been a blessing. It is very well written in that the language is simple and straighforward. Excellent examples are provided that have been very helpful for me such as: how to write using the active voice and first person (often frowned upon in scientific writing)effectively. I have had this book for about three months and it is already dog eared and filled with sticky notes. I am planning on ordering the e version as soon as I get my new kindle. This will decrease the weight of my bag since I carry it with me just about everywhere I go. I also think more experienced writers will benefit from this book. I have read many scientific articles by experts and some of them are very difficult to read due to unnecessarily long and complex sentences. This book gives some very good tips on how to keep sentences concise so that the complexity of the science can be better appreciated.
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