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Ideas into Words: Mastering the Craft of Science Writing First Printing Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0801873300
ISBN-10: 0801873304
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This is a slim book, but it contains a wealth of information. The author, a veteran science writer, tells us pretty much everything we need to know about her demanding field. She discusses finding the story you want to tell, conducting the research, and developing the story structure, and she breaks each down into its component parts. In the chapter titled "Research and Interview," for example, she discusses the proper use of press releases; how to choose your interview subjects (and even what time of day is best to conduct an interview); and the importance of being able to spot when information from one source conflicts with information from another source. Smartly written and constructed, the book is absolutely essential to someone looking to enter this very tough, competitive field. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This is a slim book, but it contains a wealth of information. The author, a veteran science writer, tells us pretty much everything we need to know about her demanding field... Smartly written and constructed, the book is absolutely essential to someone looking to enter this very tough, competitive field.

(Booklist)

Rich with real-life examples and anecdotes, the book covers the essentials... Hancock urges writers to overcome any intimidation they may have in covering the sciences. Then, she helps them hone their skills to make stories clear and compelling.

(Science News)

Ideas into Words enables the reader to BE a writer and to DO science writing.

(Margaret Reilly, PhD AWIS Magazine)

In Ideas into Words, Elise Hancock has managed to write a guide to science writing that is not only comprehensive―she answers every question I could have imagined asking and then some―but also wise, vivid, and an awful lot of fun. I wish I'd had something like this to help me when I was starting out.

(Michael D. Lemonick, author of Other Worlds: The Search for Life in the Universe, winner of the American Institute of Physics Writing Award)

Elise Hancock's excitement is infectious. One puts her book down and feels drawn to a keyboard.

(Joel Havemann, editor, Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Time)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; First Printing edition (May 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801873304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801873300
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #730,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By John C. Dunbar on February 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The author provides many examples of great scientific writing. Such writing involves translating difficult-to-understand abstractions into concepts easy to understand and related to our current knowledge.
Her writing was a delight to read.
"As the article proceeds, it is as if the selected facts are coated in honey, so that they slide down easy, one pill at a time. No reader will go away thinking, Boy was that turgid, I had to learn a new word just about every paragraph - even though she did."
The book is organized into the following chapters:
1 A Matter of Attitude
2 Finding Stories
3 Finding Out: Research and the Interview
4 Writing: Getting Started adn theSTructure
5 Writing: The Nitty Gritty
6 Refining Your Draft
7 When You're Feeling Stuck
What I particularly liked:
+ her ability to use extended similes, metaphors
+ things that make scientific writing different
+ watch out for scientific mavericks
+ how to find scientific story ideas (excellent)
+ don't confuse a topic with a story idea
+ all of her material on interviewing (excellent, particularly the questions to ask)
+ focusing on the most likely reader, but also the other ones
+ her method of writing was unique (lack of exploratory free-writing, don't spill the beans on your story before you write)
+ her recommended use of organic shapes for your writing (excellent)
+ "build the picture before you supply the name" (how to define technical terms)
+ some great tips on putting on a fresh set of eyes before you start to revise and then edit.
+ re-organizing the paragraphs using their "gists"
+ "... in a term paper you tell. In a professional writing, you show."
I highly recommend this book for anyone who writes, but particularly for anyone who wants to write for the scientific or technical markets.
John Dunbar
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I read "Ideas into Words" primarily for an insight into how science writers go about their business and secondarily to see if aspects of good popular science writing can be useful in communicating science between disciplines - and in writing grant applications.
Hancock does indeed provide a nice glimpse into scientific journalism. The second and third chapters focused on reporting science and interacting with scientists from a journalist's perspective. A lot of the suggestions also apply to what makes for a good science student. The final four chapters dealt with writing and some of the suggestions do cross over from journalism to other forms of writing. The first chapter was the most enjoyable; the discussions of what science is and how scientists think were gems. My favorites sections were on the mentoring process in science and the difference between scientific and legal forms of rational inquiry - truth vs. verdict.
I recommend this book mainly to people interested in becoming science writers. I believe the suggestions would help anyone reporting on my own work, for example. The suggestions and discussions in the book are also of value to scientists who wish to communicate their work.
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Hancock uses great examples in her writing and is very conversational. She writes in a way that gets you excited to start out in the science writing field. She breaks up what she's trying to say with different headers which helps make it easy to read and understand the material (as well as flip back in the book to reference something). I'm currently taking a class in science writing for the public which is why I got this book in the first place but I'll definitely be holding onto it for future reference.
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I am attempting to take on the daunting task of writing a non-fiction sciencey book. English was my worst subject and I didn't pay attention in biology class. I need all of the help I can get. I thought this book was both useful and enjoyable. She offers a great deal of practical wisdom which left me feeling not so lost. I was already doing many things right and had no idea!
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