Geosciences Department

Writing Tips

Effective writing is difficult for most people. Below are some of the commonly encountered mistakes made by geology students and geologists. Probably the best handbook for writing is: The Elements of Style by W. Strunk Jr., and E.B. White. This book is a must for anyone who wants other people to take their writing seriously. The technology of writing has progressed remarkably in the past few centuries, from hand script to set type to typewriters to computer word processors. Word processors have made the mechanics of writing vastly easier than in the bad old days, but writing content and style is still entirely up to your own skills and perseverance. Here are some tips that will help:

  • It is generally easiest if you have all of your figures and tables in reasonably finished form before you start writing. It is usually easier to write about something that is in front of you.
  • Most word processors have a spell checker; do not fail to take full advantage of it.
  • Spell checkers won’t help if you use a correctly spelled but otherwise wrong word. You MUST proof read your work thoroughly, for grammatical sense, content, and logical sense.
  • While silent reading works well for some people, probably the best way to catch mistakes is to read your text aloud to yourself.
  • If you do not understand what you are writing about, you will not be able to convince anyone else that you know. Understand your subject before you start writing.
  • Follow any formatting guidelines, if there are any.