Editorial Guidelines

Using caution, consider the Made To Stick Principles

By following two or three of these 6 principles below you will create science news headlines and content that stick in readers’ minds.

Simple

Take a complex finding or theory and condense it into something that’s quickly soluble. Prioritize the core of the science article: can you communicate it with an analogy? But, if the idea cannot be condensed easily, choose a different topic or angle, rather than dilute its meaning/lose the nuance.

Unexpected

Grab the reader’s attention by surprising them with an unexpected headline.

An easy way to surprise them is to break patterns. You can surprise people by violating their expectations or forcing their “guessing machines” to miss a prediction. However, make sure the headline is reflective of your research and does not engage in click-baiting. Often, people share articles after only reading the headlines so make sure you prioritize accuracy over sensation.

Concrete

Help people understand and remember. The more hooks in the summary the better. Provide imagery to bolster the summary (hairy insects, schooling fish, etc — our brains are wired to remember concrete data.)

Credibility

Use descriptive detail when necessary, but remember rule #1 (“Simple!”). Explain “why” to your readers.

When you must use statistics, give statistic some context. Avoid throwing around impressive numbers and facts in a vacuum. Also, you may not directly mention the term “standard deviation”, but discussing how variable something is helps a great deal. Journalists are terrible at this, usually.

Emotional

Tap into something people care about. Facts matter, but so do feelings. Pay attention to your tone. Please avoid writing as though you are providing a knowledge service. You are having a conversation with the reader, not teaching them.

Stories

Experiment with different ways to be inspirational, funny, or interesting. Explain the science as though you are a storyteller, giving the play by play of how you arrived at your findings. However, take care in relaying personal anecdotes when giving the results context. Connecting research to personal experiences actually creates a false assumption that science must validate personal experiences…which it often does not. Try a broader approach, or give both supporting and counter examples.