Archive for the ‘Scientific Writing’ Category

Four More Tips for SBIR/STTR Grant Applicants

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

On the last day of 2011, President Obama rang in the new year by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) HR.1540 into law. This bill gave the SBIR/STTR program a much-needed (OK, huge) breath of fresh air, extending the program into the second half of 2017.

Grant money

Image - Flickr/Creative Commons

The April 5 deadline for the NIH Omnibus solicitation is approaching, so now is the time to start thinking about preparing your application. As a follow-up to a post last year on Five Tips for First-Time SBIR/STTR Grant Applicants, I have compiled four more tips that you should consider when assembling your application. (more…)

Six Resources for SBIR/STTR Grant Applicants and Grantees

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Are you new to SBIRs? Need help navigating the application process? Or do you want to stay up-to-date on the latest SBIR/STTR news? In this blog post, I describe some of the resources available to SBIR/STTR applicants and grantees. (more…)

Perplexed by Homonyms?

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Homonyms… wow- now there’s a word I haven’t heard since grade school! Loosely defined, it means “similar-sounding words that mean different things”.

As a follow up to my “Three Tricks for Tricky Word Choices” post, I thought I’d expand on the topic to clarify four groups of homonyms that can be confusing. As a scientist – and not an English major – you may knowingly (or unknowingly) misuse these words when writing your next manuscript or grant. (more…)

Search and Destroy: Eliminate Wordy Phrases From Your Manuscript in an Instant

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

The editors at The Isis Group often joke that we should put together a list of phrases used by scientists that should automatically be eliminated from every manuscript or grant that we edit. Well… here is a first draft of that list.

Most of these examples arise from excessive wordiness or the use of unnecessary phrases. Our advice: use the search function in your word processing program, find these phrases, and hit that delete or replace button. (more…)

Three Tricks for Tricky Word Choices

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

There are several examples of words that are misused, resulting in one of the top sources of confusion for scientists when writing a manuscript or grant. And many times, the scientist doesn’t even know that he or she is confused! Here are some of the most common misunderstandings I have observed when editing manuscripts and grants, and tricks that scientists can use to easily sort it out. (more…)

The ABCs of Writing a Title for Your Next Journal Article

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Next time you struggle to write a descriptive title for your manuscript, remember these ABCs:

A is for attention

Most scientists only scan the title of articles before deciding to read more. Make sure your title is compelling and grabs their attention, making them want to read your article.

B is for brevity

Be brief. Make sure your title is clear and concise, with no extraneous words, and entirely self-explanatory. Try to include a few keywords that will lead others to your article.

C is for conclusion

Describe the main conclusion of your article. Don’t be vague.

The best way to illustrate these points is by way of example. Here are some basic comparisons between a good title and an even better title. (more…)

Five Tips for First-time SBIR/STTR Applicants

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

As the August 5 deadline approaches for the submission of SBIR/STTR grants, many of you may be still working long nights on your application.  By the way, this deadline stands under the assumption that a continuing resolution (CR) is passed to fund the program beyond July 31 (see for details). We have our fingers crossed here.

Having assisted several investigators in writing and editing SBIR/STTR grant applications (and currently writing one myself), I know how involved the process can be, especially for first-timers. I highly recommend educating yourself by going to an SBIR conference (this year’s is in Oklahoma City,, attending an information session or workshop (offered by numerous universities and incubators), or listening to online seminars, such as those offered at

For those who are new to the process or maybe just considering it, I have compiled a list of tips: (more…)

When Writing Your Next Journal Article, Try Beginning at the End

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

When sitting down to write a manuscript, where do YOU start? At the beginning, where it seems most logical? You struggle with a title… try to decide the order of authors… start writing the abstract or introduction. You end up getting stuck in some or all of these spots, then curse the whole thing and decide you need a break and head for your favorite coffee shop.

Well, consider this the next time you sit down to write your next manuscript: start at the end.


The Scientist’s Struggle

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

If you’re like most scientists, when it’s time to sit down and write a journal article or grant, it isn’t exactly that easy to put words down on a page. Sometimes, simply finding the time to actually sit down at the computer to start writing is challenging. And when a grant application deadline is looming, the pressure is on, making the entire process even more daunting.

Here are some tips to help you focus and get started.