Professional Organizations for Technical Writers

Government biologists, engineers, and economists tend not to think of themselves as writers, despite the fact that they spend most of their time producing lengthy, technical documents. And while you will readily join a society of other scientists, you may not consider the benefits that a professional organization of writers or editors could offer. Professional […]

Year in Review: Your Questions

Teaching gives me tremendous pleasure, as anyone knows who has been in one of my classes. I love the curiosity, the wonder, the total engagement of people committed to learning. And I especially enjoy the freedom of exploration – the “what if?” Like any good graduate school student, I can spend hours over a beer […]

5 Consequences of the Plain Writing Act

It’s been four years since the Plain Writing Act was signed into law. Still, many Americans aren’t aware that government documents are supposed to clear and easy to understand. And an alarming number of government writers don’t have the resources they need to achieve this goal. As someone who provides writing training to government biologists, […]

Hawaii – The Native and the Estranged

The Hale Koa in Oahu boasts, if not the largest, certainly one of the most beautiful banyan trees in the world. Unfortunately, like many of the plants and animals found on the islands of Hawaii, the banyan tree is not endemic. It is native to India, an intruder in Paradise, a visitor from the mainland, […]

A Case for Collaborative Literature

October is Nobel Prize month, and in 2014 the Foundation gave us a glimpse into its methodology for its 2nd century of existence: the rewarding of collaborative work.* From October 6 to October 13, Nobel Prizes were awarded in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, and Economics. Of those, only Literature and Economics were awarded to […]

Gobbledygook and Other Sorts of Nonsense

Anything worth saying is worth saying plainly. And doing so is often less trouble. Still, nonsense language persists. In fact, so many communications are nonsensical that the English language has evolved dozens of words to describe the varieties of nonsense you may be unfortunate enough to experience. For all of us who wish to speak […]

Top 10 Grammar Apps

God bless my students! They ask me the best questions. In a recent class, as I was giving my “here are the four indispensible reference works you absolutely, positively must have” spiel, one of them said, “as we move into a digital world and the book begins its long, slow decline, what do you believe […]

The Mighty Semicolon

Few marks of punctuation cause so much angst as the semicolon. Compared to the semicolon, the comma is a mosquito, hovering over the sentence, buzzing, striking occasionally to suck the sanguinary syntax of its vitality and infect it with limpidity. The semicolon, on the other hand, is the object of authorial navel-gazing. It forces us […]

Bread upon the Waters

Overheard – biologists at lunch swapping notes RE office environment: B1: We’ve recently moved to half-cubes. Some of us have started wearing airport-style headphones to drown out the noise. The guy next to me conducts all of his business via speakerphone. I can put white noise on underneath of the ‘phones and still hear him. […]

The Government Shutdown Endangers the Planet

The government shutdown has received plenty of press. We all know the ways in which it’s related to the Affordable Care Act. We all understand the parts played by Republicans and Democrats alike. And we all realize that the longer the government remains shut down, the more vulnerable are the indigent, the very young, and […]