Science writers are challenged not only to engage a broad audience with a readable story but to maintain the integrity of the scientific topic they are covering. The New York Times Reader: Science & Technology is a collection of stories from The New York Times that reflects the writing characteristics of effective science writers. Author Stocking writes: “But it was not flashiness or even the quality of the writing that led to the selection of these stories so much as it was what they reveal about matters important for aspiring science writers to learn—the elements that belong in discovery stories or trend and issue features, for example, or the various techniques of explaining science.”
Stocking brings her extensive experience in science writing to the book. She taught science writing for more than 2 decades at Indiana University and was a science writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. Stocking is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With her widespread experience in science writing, she has considerable knowledge to contribute to the field.
Science & Technology is organized into easy-to-follow parts: News, Features, and Commentary. From the table of contents, it is clear that the book was well thought out and well organized. The book contains 48 articles from 1982 to 2009 (although most of the articles are from the mid to late 2000s). Stocking credits many who assisted in the collection of articles, such as several New York Times science editors, writers, and staff, including Laura Chang, science editor of The New York Times. Each story begins with an abstract that highlights points in the article. For example, Stocking may note in the abstract why she likes the story and why it was chosen. She also points out specific strengths or weaknesses.
Within each section, multiple chapters expand on the subject of the section. Each chapter consists of several articles with a common theme, such as coverage of meetings, stories about scientists, reviews, essays, editorials and op-eds, and even blogs and columns. The articles are not only examples of the chapter’s theme and well-written science journalism pieces but interesting to read and learn from, especially in the “Discoveries” chapter. This chapter exposes the reader to fascinating stories that range from dieting monkeys to the benefits of napping and a story about teleporting.
Although Stocking says that this book is not a textbook, it can be used to assist science-journalism students in practicing science writing. The stories are entertaining, the content is educational, and all are well-written science-journalism pieces. She also emphasizes the importance of reading for becoming a great writer. “Reading well is knowing what to look for,” she says. Stocking provides the following list titled “What to Read For”: the gut test, the topic, the focus, information, organization, writing, editing, and extras. She expands on all those points and notes how each can be used to better one’s reading to improve writing.
At the beginning of many chapters, Stocking includes a “Story Scan” in which she dissects a story by highlighting words or sentences and commenting on them in the margin. For example, in one story scan she highlights the line “Experts not involved with the study said”. Her margin notes remind the reader always to “make sure outside sources are without ties to the researchers or funders of the study in question.” This example, as well as her other highlighted points, reminds readers of techniques that they can use in their writing and rules that they must follow. Her examples are also relevant to editors for sharpening their skills and reminding them of important inquiries to the writer.
Throughout the book, boxed paragraphs called “Making Connections” offer tidbits of information, such as recommendations for useful Web sites and questions to ask oneself in the writing process that would help to make a science article well rounded. Sometimes, the boxed paragraph closes with a “Try This”, which suggests a topic to research or think about and challenges the reader to participate in a writing exercise.
Stocking also includes interviews called “A conversation with . . .”, featuring New York Times science writers, such as Dennis Overbye, Natalie Angier, and Andrew Revkin. Each author in a “conversation” also has at least one article in the book as an example of excellent science journalism. The conversations give readers a brief glimpse into how authors began working in science journalism and a look into authors’ thought processes in developing their ideas. Some authors also give suggestions to aspiring science journalists.
Stocking concludes the book with a list of suggested resources, including New York Times stories on a variety of issues that may be of interest to science writers and editors. A Web site,www.college.cqpress.com/nytimes, provides links to additional stories and interactive graphics.
Stocking repeatedly mentions that a good science writer, or any kind of writer for that matter, is a good reader. If anything is learned from this publication, it is to pick up a copy for yourself and start reading immediately! Science editors would also benefit by reading this book because of the many examples of well-written and welledited pieces. Whether you are a professor of science journalism, a student, an editor, or a seasoned veteran in the field, The New York Times Reader: Science & Technology is a must read filled with useful suggestions for writing and reading and with examples of science journalism at its best.
BARBARA MENDOZA is a recent graduate in science and technology journalism at Texas A&M University and wrote this book review while an intern at Science Editor.
The latest Chicago Manual of Style is a comprehensive update of the 15th edition published in 2003. Revisions in design, content, and philosophy of the editors are evident in this welcome new version of an industry standard. In the preface, the guiding principles for the 16th edition are described as twofold: “to recognize the continuing evolution in the way authors, editors, and publishers do their work, on the one hand, and to maintain a focus on those aspects of the process that are independent of the medium of publication on the other.”
Users of the last edition of CMS will recognize the book’s familiar trim size and orange cloth cover, although the dust cover is now pale blue. At 1026 pages, this volume has grown by 70 pages. A different typeface and bold section titles improve readability and cause less eyestrain, and the harder-to-read gray font previously used for examples in running text and for some headings has been abandoned.
The book’s 16 chapters are now organized into three parts. Part I, “The Publishing Process”, contains chapters on books and journals; manuscript preparation, editing, and proofreading; illustrations and tables; and rights, permissions, and copyrights. Part II, “Style and Usage”, contains chapters on grammar and usage, punctuation, spelling, names and terms, numbers, abbreviations, foreign languages, mathematics into type, and quotations and dialogue. Part III, “Documentation”, includes chapters on notes and bibliography, author–date references, and indexes. Those familiar with the 15th edition will recognize the chapter order and organization of the revised book, although some material has been moved to bring related concepts closer together.
In the 16th edition, the hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes has been converted from a list to a table (Section 7.85). Earlier versions of CMS presented the rules in tabular form but later changed them to a list. A new table (Table 11.1) was added for special characters used in foreign words, phrases, or titles. The table lists a character and its corresponding Unicode number with the languages that use the character. Unicode numbers also have been added for special characters in other sections of the book, such as en and em dashes, plus and minus signs, and other mathematical symbols. A table has been added with the Unicode numbers and LaTex commands for mathematical operations, relations, operators, logic, radial units, constants, geometry, and other special symbols used in mathematics (Table 12.1).
To address the evolution of electronic publication, CMS now contains additional information on electronic publishing, including documentation of electronic publications, blogs, and podcasts; use of DOIs and URLs in references for electronic articles; more glossary terms related to electronic publishing; updated explanations of production processes; and procedures for proofreading Web and electronic documents. New material in Chapter 2 on the mechanics of electronic editing includes a checklist for cleanup of electronic files, guidelines for preparing a final electronic manuscript, and a discussion of document-comparison software and version of record.
Chapter 5 on grammar and usage has added sections on parallel construction as a component of good writing. The recommendations and examples of an essential writing practice will be of great help to writers and a welcome reference for editors. In the same chapter, coverage of bias-free language has been expanded and includes nine techniques for achieving gender neutrality, sections on sex-specific labels as adjectives, gender-neutral singular pronouns, problematic suffixes, necessary gender-specific language, and tips for avoiding other biased language.
Chapters on documentation have been reorganized to separate the author–date system from the notes and bibliography system. Examples for both systems previously were combined in one chapter. This revision makes it much easier to find specific examples and variations of the author–date style for text citations and references commonly used in scientific publishing.
In past editions, CMS often presented several stylistic options for a topic. The latest version moves away from that approach and instead opts for making firmer recommendations if several treatments exist. For example, two sets of rules, “simple” and “traditional”, were given in the 15th edition for capitalization of hyphenated terms in titles of works. The first set of rules was said to be acceptable, but the second set was the option preferred by CMS. A different approach is exemplified in the new edition by presenting only one set of rules and introducing the topic with the prescriptive: “The following rules apply to hyphenated terms appearing in a title . . . ” (Section 8.159). In some cases, exceptions to stated rules also have been eliminated or the number of exceptions has been reduced. These changes are intended to help authors and editors to make correct choices.
The online version (www.chicagomanalofstyle.org/home.html) of the 16th edition of CMS, published simultaneously with the print version, is available for an additional subscription fee of $35 for individuals, and discounted rates are available for small user groups. Subscribers retain access to online content for the previous edition to enable completion of projects that began with that as the agreed-on style manual of choice.
Editors in medical and scientific fields will still rely on style manuals written specifically for their disciplines when working with technical content, but every author’s and editor’s reference shelf should have a copy of CMS. The new edition has substantially updated content, especially that pertaining to electronic media, and improved guidance and recommendations that make purchase of this book a worthwhile investment.
SUSAN M SHIRLEY is a freelance science editor in Corpus Christi, TX. She was a member of the Style Manual Subcommittee that produced CSE’s Scientific Style and Format, 7th edition.
ELEMENTS OF LATIN PRONUNCIATION: FOR THE USE OF STUDENTS IN LANGUAGE, LAW, MEDICINE, ZOOLOGY, BOTANY, AND THE SCIENCES GENERALLY IN WHICH LATIN WORDS ARE USED (1851). MICHAEL SAMUEL STEHMAN HALDEMAN. WHITEFISH, MT: KESSINGER PUBLISHING; 2010. 80 PAGES. HARDCOVER $32.95. ISBN-13: 978-1161780253.
This is a reprinting of a scanned copy of the original book and thus has imperfections related to the preservation and copying process. Reprinted copies also are available from publishing sources other than Kessinger.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMUNICATION. SUSANNA HORNIG PRIEST, EDITOR. THOUSAND OAKS, CA: SAGE PUBLICATIONS; 2010. 1144 PAGES. HARDCOVER $350.00. ISBN-13: 978-14129-5920-9.
This two-volume set provides resources and strategies for science communicators, including theoretical material and background on recent controversies. Topics addressed include advocacy, policy, and research organizations; environmental and health communication; philosophy of science; media theory and science communication; science journalism as a profession; special problems in reporting science and technology; and science-communication ethics.
IT WAS THE BEST OF SENTENCES, IT WAS THE WORST OF SENTENCES: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO CRAFTING KILLER SENTENCES. JUNE CASAGRANDE. BERKELEY, CA: TEN SPEED PRESS; 2010. 224 PAGES. PAPERBACK $14.00. ISBN-13: 978-1- 58008-740-7.
As a title implies, the focus of this humorous book is the sentence as the building block of good writing. Casagrande shows what makes a great sentence through examination of syntax and grammar. The book is intended for aspiring novelists and nonfiction writers alike.
RESEARCH WRITING IN DENTISTRY. J ANTHONY VON FRAUNHOFER. HOBOKEN, NJ: WILEY-BLACKWELL; 2010. 200 PAGES. PAPERBACK $44.99. ISBN-13: 978-0- 8138-0762-1.
Both predoctoral and postdoctoral dental students will find this a practical guide for developing, analyzing, and presenting research. Examples in dentistry are used throughout to illustrate principles of research, how to write a research report, and basic statistics and analysis.
SCIENCE RESEARCH WRITING: A GUIDE FOR NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS OF ENGLISH. HILARY GLASMAN-DEAL. LONDON: IMPERIAL COLLEGE PRESS; 2009. 272 PAGES. PAPERBACK $25.00. ISBN-13: 978-1-84816-310-2.
This book is designed to enable nonnative English speakers to write about science research for publication in English. It guides the reader through the process of writing about science research and will help with writing theses and dissertations in English. Organized along the lines of the basic parts of a research paper, the book also has sections on grammar, writing skills, and vocabulary. The subject matter is not only for students, academics, and researchers but also for language professionals who provide writing support to students and staff whose first language is not English.
THE ACCIDENTS OF STYLE: GOOD ADVICE ON HOW NOT TO WRITE BADLY. CHARLES HARRINGTON ELSTER. NEW YORK: ST. MARTIN’S GRIFFIN; 2010. 304 PAGES. PAPERBACK $14.99. ISBN-13: 978-0-312-61300-6.
Elster has written an entertaining “driver’s manual” covering 350 common word hazards and infractions arranged in order of complexity for writers of all levels. These surprisingly common accidents are illustrated with quotations from numerous print and online publications.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS: HOW ENGLISH BECAME ENGLISH. HENRY HITCHINGS. NEW YORK: PICADOR; 2009. 448 PAGES. PAPERBACK $17.00. ISBN- 13: 978-0-312-42856-3.
This book is a history of the English language and recounts the source of thousands of individual words that migrated into English from more than 350 other languages. Secret Life “is a wide-ranging chronicle of how words witness history, reflect social change, and remind us of our past.”
WRITING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ARTICLES: STRATEGYAND STEPS. MARGARET CARGILL AND PATRICK O’CONNOR. HOBOKEN, NJ: WILEY-BLACKWELL; 2009. 184 PAGES. PAPERBACK $29.95. ISBN-13: 978-1- 4051-8619-3.
Using practical exercises to develop writing and data-presentation skills through analysis of well-written example papers, this book is a guide for authors on how to write, and what to write, to improve the chances of having articles accepted for publication in international peer-reviewed journals. It also provides processes for selecting target journals and strategies for responding to referee comments.