© 1996

The Craft of Scientific Writing


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Michael Alley
    Pages 1-15
  3. Michael Alley
    Pages 16-52
  4. Michael Alley
    Pages 73-82
  5. Michael Alley
    Pages 83-96
  6. Michael Alley
    Pages 97-109
  7. Michael Alley
    Pages 110-118
  8. Michael Alley
    Pages 119-127
  9. Michael Alley
    Pages 128-145
  10. Michael Alley
    Pages 146-157
  11. Michael Alley
    Pages 158-169
  12. Michael Alley
    Pages 170-177
  13. Michael Alley
    Pages 178-194
  14. Michael Alley
    Pages 195-206
  15. Michael Alley
    Pages 207-220
  16. Michael Alley
    Pages 221-227
  17. Michael Alley
    Pages 228-254
  18. Back Matter
    Pages 255-282

About this book


In October 1984, the weak writing in a scientific report made national news. The report, which outlined safety procedures during a nuclear attack, advised industrial workers "to don heavy clothes and immerse themselves in a large body of water." The logic behind this advice was sound: Water is a good absorber of heat, neutrons, and gamma rays. Unfortunately, the way the advice was worded was unclear. Was everyone supposed to com­e up for air? Be­ completely submerged? 

The writing conveyed the wrong im­pression to the public. The report came across as saying "go jump in a lake" -- not the impression you want to give someone spending thousands of dollars to fund your­ research. Chances are that Dan Rather will not quote your documents on national television. Still, your writing is important.

On a personal level, your writing is the way in which people learn about your work. When you commu­nicate, you receive credit for your work. When you do not communicate, or are too slow to communi­cate, the credit often goes to someone else. On a larger level, your writing and the writing of other scientists influence public policy about science and engineering.


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Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer EngineeringVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

Bibliographic information


From review of the first edition
"This book offers effective methods for improving writing efficiency and overcoming difficulties during the preparation of technical information."
Robert L. Schmitt, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Wisconsin

"A refreshing addition to a genre dominated by English teacher-style textbooks. Instead of listing rules that constrain writers, the book uses examples to lay out the path to successful communication … Especially helpful (and entertaining) is the chapter on the writing process. Anyone who has spent more time avoiding a writing task than actually doing it will appreciate Alley's tips."

–Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations, Johnson Space Center