Language Policies and Resources for Writers


Writing should be non-technical. Avoid jargon. Otherwise, writers have free rein in your choice of style and tone of language (but we suggest limited use of the passive voice). Unlike in formal science writing, the use of contractions (e.g. don’t, didn’t) is acceptable. Your target audience is adult, so you can use adult language if you like so long as it isn’t bigoted or personally mean-spirited. Here again, less is more.


We’ll use the basic conventions of non-fiction writing. Formal in-text citations and reference sections are unnecessary. Obviously, if writers are using other people’s work or thoughts, they should refer to those authors or use quotes where appropriate. Writers are encouraged to provide “further reading” suggestions as they see fit, and these will appear at the end of a piece.


When referring to a person in the department, writers should ask the individual(s) if they have a preferred pronoun – and should do so EVERY TIME. We will refer to all individuals by their stated preference.

A Note on the Oxford comma

We use it. We’re not animals.

Writing resources for you:

  1. Strunk and White is the classic and still very helpful style guide. We strongly recommend reviewing this. PDF:

  2. The first chapter of the book Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott is a useful (and often fun) resource for people getting into writing. PDF:

  3. Most of us have our favourite science-related outlets. Try reading a few of your favourite articles and thinking about what makes them work. Check out this link to an index of the first 10 editions of The Best American Science and Nature Writing series - these are not PDFs of the books, but they contain links to most of the original articles.

  4. The Open Notebook is a not-for-profit group that curates and shares professional tips and resources for science journalists. The info here is invaluable for anyone interested in writing about science for the public. The website includes notes on craft, break-downs on writing the process by professional science journalists, a database of successful story pitches for you to emulate, and much more.