How to Write an Essay Like an Equation, by Eric Sentell, PhD, a writing instructor at Southeast Missouri State University, offers step-by-step advice for communicating ideas clearly. While some sections are more applicable to undergraduate essays, most chapters feature strategies to strengthen and clarify any writing. The book will teach you how to highlight your main ideas, link thoughts and sentences, and edit your own work.

Early chapters cover writing with the audience in mind, thesis statements, and paragraph structure. Chapters crucial for teaching or editing your own scientific writing include:

Content-Lexical Ties (Ch 6): Emphasizes “techniques for enhancing the organization of your writing and achieving the mysterious ‘flow’ that writing teachers talk about.” If ideas flow seamlessly, readers find content easier to comprehend—useful when yours is one grant to review in a stack of dozens. Sentell shares four methods of tying your sentences and ideas together, including repetition, related words, categories, and transitions, and provides examples of the effective use of these methods.

The Paramedic Method of Editing (Ch 7): Includes a checklist for paring your writing to the essentials, reducing reader fatigue and allowing the critical details to shine. Again, useful examples abound.

Sentence Boundaries (Ch 8) and A Practical Style Guide (Ch 9): Answer questions like why sentence fragments are fragments and how to correct them (or not write them in the first place). These chapters also provide clear explanations of when to use specific punctuation marks and what the effects of each are, among other details about sentence-level style.

You want this book if you find writing to be a fuzzy, amorphous activity and want clear steps to follow for creating solid written work. Happy writing!

Dr. Sentell is also an Edge for Scholars blogger. Check out his posts on writing for your audience and making writing memorable:

How a Jail-house Letter and Goat Research Can Get Your Grant Funded

How to Make Writing More Memorable and Persuasive

Other must-read books on writing:

Dreyer’s English

The Art of Scientific Storytelling

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