Sciworthy aims to make our content accessible to adults across a spectrum of political views with a minimum of a high school education and who have not studied much science. It is extremely important to keep our audience in mind when writing your article. This is not to say people of different ages with different levels of education and familiarity with science do not read Sciworthy. In fact, they do. However, we use the high school educated adult as the model for how we want to explain things because it forces us to be clear, concise, and engaging.
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.
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. Take care to avoid jargon and other ways of describing phenomena that you may be used to using in a scientific context, because the average reader has likely not internalized those words and concepts. Our editors can help with this.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
A Few Grammar and Style Recommendations
Scientists have a tendency to write very long compound sentences. The purpose of this is to pack a lot of detail into the fewest words possible. While it is a useful strategy for scholarly journal articles, keep in mind that these kinds of sentences are likely to cause your reader to lose focus. If the reader has to go over the piece multiple times to understand what you are saying, it will not effectively communicate the science. You can still pack detail into your narrative, but stick to sentences that most closely resemble the “[Noun] did [verb]” form. Passive voice is acceptable if avoids awkward sentences with too many commas or the use of the word “one” to mean “a person.”