Reference and Writing

Scott L. Montgomery on the Importance of Communicating Science Today

August 14, 2020
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Scott L. Montgomery, author of The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, is widely known for his writings on energy matters, intellectual history, language and translation, and history of science. In light of the disparate messaging surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we invited him to share his thoughts with us. Communicating science is more essential today than it has ever been. This means not only among scientists themselves but a range of non-scientific audiences. Such may sound like an opinion donning the mask of fact (forgive the simile). But I wager almost every scientist and a great many others agree with it.   There are several reasons for me to say this. One, of course, is the Covid-19 pandemic. In this case, communicating the science and doing so accurately counts as both an ethical and moral act, as well as a political necessity, due to the near-bacterial spread of misinformation, conspiracy ideas, and outright denials of the disease. Internet technology provides pathways for anti-science to mobilize and proliferate, and it is this same technology (social media) that needs to be employed as a counter such intellectual toxins. Thankfully, a good bit of this is happening. It needs to continue and expand in both relentless and eloquent fashion to counter and contain the appeals it . . .

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#SciComm: Suggested Readings for Effective Communication

June 23, 2020
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Summer is upon us, and as cities, states, and nations begin to open up following months of pandemic lockdown, we remain uncertain about what the future holds. The need for clear, informed, and effective communication of science information to the general public has never been greater. For all the scicommers of the world, we’ve put together a #SciComm toolkit of books, many of which appear in our series of Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing. To all the science journalists, writers, video and radio producers, and public information officers: we thank you for your work and hope these suggested readings are of some help! The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science: Second Edition Scott L. Montgomery Writing Science in Plain English Anne E. Greene Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story Randy Olson Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, Eighth Edition Council of Science Editors Also available as Scientific Style and Format Online Ethics and Practice in Science Communication Edited by Susanna Priest, Jean Goodwin, and Michael F. Dahlstrom Handbook for Science Public Information Officers W. Matthew Shipman The Chicago Guide to Writing about Numbers, Second Edition Jane E. Miller The Chicago . . .

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It’s Time to Finally Write that Novel

November 1, 2019
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November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), a time when writers of all stripes set out on the audacious task of bringing to completion a novel of 50,000 words. Of course, we know that one of the best ways to become a good writer is to be a good reader, taking in the work of others to feed our own writing appetite and offer inspiration in the writing process. As we head into November and the month’s celebration of the novel, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fiction for you to enjoy. And, for tips and tricks to guide you on your own novel-writing adventure, be sure to check out Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, a go-to sourcebook for fiction writers. Bealport: A Novel of a Town by Jeffrey Lewis. From Haus Publishing. In the shadow of a failing shoe factory, Bealport, Main is one of the forgotten towns of America. Jeffrey Lewis takes us inside the town, deploying a large cast of characters and revealing the intertwining threads of industry, livelihood, self-respect, and community. Bealport has been called “a hugely satisfying read” by the Evening Standard, “a moving and humane . . .

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Nine Tips from Wendy Laura Belcher, author of “Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks”

June 25, 2019
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January 1 might be the traditional time for resolutions, but the summer often brings on the warm-weather resolve to finally get some writing done, especially from those who see a dip in workload or other requirements this time of year. At the same time, the summer is full of distractions that offer easy excuses to put writing goals off until another day—sometimes until Labor Day suddenly arrives. Wendy Laura Belcher is the author of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks and is an expert on helping academics finish their writing projects. Here she offers nine tips on how to motivate yourself to finally sit down and get writing. Many academics find sitting down at the computer and starting to write to be the most difficult challenge facing them. One of the reasons for this, as one of my students put it so well, is that “if I never start, then I never fail.” Another is getting out of the habit of writing—or never having had a writing habit. While tough to overcome, this obstacle does have some straightforward solutions. Make other tasks contingent on writing An excellent way of dealing with the difficulty of getting started is to make . . .

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Write That Book: Exercises for Creative Thinking from Janet Burroway

April 12, 2019
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In 1972, Janet Burroway was assigned to teach a “narrative techniques” class at Florida State. But when she went to find a text to use with the class, she could not find anything that spoke to fiction writing. “There were (it is difficult now to imagine) virtually no books to serve as guidance,” she explains in the introduction to the tenth edition of Writing Fiction, which publishes at the end of April. “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style was a mainstay, but it took, as White notes, a barking tone toward its writer novices. I reread E. M. Forster’s lovely Aspects of the Novel, but it was mostly too abstract and too advanced for my Florida eighteen-year-olds. I combed Eric Bentley’s The Life of the Drama for clues to plot. I read another how-to, the name and author of which I no longer remember, but which memorably assured me that women use a lot of exclamation points but men should not.” So Burroway, a writer of novels herself, decided to create a guide of her own. Three decades later, Writing Fiction has sold more than a quarter million copies and remains the go-to book for aspiring writers. And despite the . . .

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Brooke Borel on fact-checking and fake news

January 30, 2017
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Brooke Borel on fact-checking and fake news

Brooke Borel, the author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking, on “Fact-Checking Won’t Save Us from Fake News,” at FiveThirtyEight: As for tech, fact-checking and blocking fake news sites from advertising dollars is a start, but it’s not enough. Facebook and Google keep giving users more of what they want to see through proprietary algorithms. This may be great for entertainment, but it doesn’t help when it comes to news, where it may just strengthen existing bias. “Facebook was not designed for this purpose,” said Claire Wardle, research director at First Draft News, a network of newsmakers and academics who provide resources on checking and verifying stories on social media. “It has become the civic town hall, but it was never designed to be.” Tech’s role isn’t only about stifling fake news on social media. Some companies and academics are building algorithms that can help fact-check portions of the web. Here, the key will be not only computer programming, but also transparency in terms of how those algorithms are constructed and building trust by showing how a fact-check is sourced, said Dhruv Ghulati, co-founder of the fact-checking system Factmata. As for readers, we’re the ones consuming all this news. Our clicks feed . . .

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Kate Turabian is #1

March 23, 2016
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Kate Turabian is #1

From Time‘s slightly soiled (c/o a surprise appearance by Evelyn Waugh) list of the 100 Most-Read Female Writers on College Campuses: Toni Morrison and Jane Austen are among the most-read female writers on college campuses, a new TIME analysis found. First place on the list—which is based on 1.1 million college syllabi collected by the Open Syllabus Project—goes to Kate L. Turabian for her Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, assigned in 3,998 classrooms over the last 15 years. Though much coverage of Time‘s list skewed toward questioning how Waugh’s inclusion made it so far along in the editing process (he clocked in at number 97), some blogs did point out that Turabian, while securing the top spot based on her gender affiliation at #17 overall, was still surpassed by 16 male-identified writers on a general ranking of syllabi (with Shakespeare, Plato, and Freud finishing near the top), rather unfortunately (and sadly, not all that surprisingly) leaving woman-identified writers completely out of the top ten. Read more about all things Turabian here. Read Time’s list in full here. . . .

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From Aristotle to South Park: An online seminar with Randy Olson

November 18, 2015
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From Aristotle to South Park: An online seminar with Randy Olson

In Houston, We Have a Narrative, consummate storyteller—and Hollywood screenwriter and former scientist and communications expert—Randy Olson, conveys his no-nonsense, results-oriented approach to writing about science, the stuff of some of our greatest plots. On December 1, 2015, at 2PM, Olson will be leading an hour-long, online seminar for the AAAS (the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society). In addition to conveying the fascinating journey of how he left a tenured professorship in marine biology to write for the movies, Olson will let you know why—and, but, therefore—how. From the AAAS’s description: He had a single goal — the search for something that might improve the communication of science. He found it in a narrative template he crafted and labeled as “The ABT.” The ABT is adapted from the co-creators of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning animated series, South Park. In a 2011 documentary about the show, they talked about their “Rule of Replacing” which they use for editing scripts. Their rule involves replacing the word “and” with “but” or “therefore.” From this Olson devised his “And, But, Therefore” template (the ABT). This has become the central tool for his new book, “Houston, We Have A Narrative,” his . . .

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University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary app [SALE]

May 5, 2015
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University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary app [SALE]

Coinciding with the celebration of Cinco de Mayo and for a very limited time, the good folks behind the University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary (Sixth Edition) app have dropped the price to $0.99 (usually $4.99). You can a basic screenshot of the app’s functionality above—from breezing through recent reviews, it seems like the app’s ability to generate words lists, along with its word-by-word notetaking feature, has proven especially popular. From the App Store description: The Spanish–English Dictionary app is a precise and practical bilingual application for iPhone® and iPod touch® based on the sixth edition of The University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary. Browse or search the full contents to display all instances of a term for fuller understanding of how it is used in both languages. Build your vocabulary by creating Word Lists and testing yourself on terms you need to master with flash cards and multiple choice quizzes. Whether you are preparing for next week’s class or upcoming international travel, this app is the essential on-the-go reference. You can watch a demo of the app here:   The app is, of course, a companion to the (physical book) sixth edition of the University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary, praised by Library Journal as, . . .

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Chicago Manual of Style: 2013 Favorite Things

December 23, 2013
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Chicago Manual of Style: 2013 Favorite Things

Our colleagues at the Chicago Manual of Style blog have been counting down the days to the new year with a series of short features on their “Favorite Things” from 2013. Have a look at the site here, or by clicking the image above—you’ll find fodder and stylistic ephemera, from bookstores to champion and preferred typographic treatments to foolproof dictionaries and nods to college English teachers. Among those favored? Our own Carol Fisher Saller, author of The Subversive Copy Editor, whose eponymous book is available via the University of Chicago Press website through December 31 for $10 (with discount code SCE2013). Happy holidays from and for everyone who works with words! . . .

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