📑 Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper

Bookmarked Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper (nature.com)

The Pulitzer prizewinner shares his advice for pleasing readers, editors and yourself.

Cormac McCarthy’s words of wisdom, as told by Van Savage and Pamela Yeh:

  • Use minimalism to achieve clarity.
  • Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember.
  • Limit each paragraph to a single message.
  • Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct.
  • Don’t slow the reader down.
  • Don’t over-elaborate.
  • And don’t worry too much about readers who want to find a way to argue about every tangential point and list all possible qualifications for every statement. Just enjoy writing.
  • With regard to grammar, spoken language and common sense are generally better guides for a first draft than rule books.
  • Commas denote a pause in speaking.
  • Dashes should emphasize the clauses you consider most important — without using bold or italics — and not only for defining terms.
  • Inject questions and less-formal language to break up tone and maintain a friendly feeling.
  • Choose concrete language and examples.
  • Avoid placing equations in the middle of sentences.
  • When you think you’re done, read your work aloud to yourself or a friend.
  • After all this, send your work to the journal editors.
  • Finally, try to write the best version of your paper: the one that you like.

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