Communicating Physics:

An Annotated Bibliography

1. Michael Alley, The Craft of Scientific Writing, 3rd Ed., Springer (New York, 1996).

Alley’s book goes into far more depth than others on this list. The stress is on writing style, and the advice is effectively illustrated by numerous examples. The reader can learn a lot by comparing a poorly written original with a more effective rewrite.

2. Vernon Booth, Communicating in Science: Writing and Speaking, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1985). 68 pp.

Succinct and sound, this text covers the basic topics focuses on the communications tasks faced by working scientists. Booth has chapters on writing a scientific paper, speaking at scientific meetings, and preparing a doctoral dissertation or thesis. The chapter on English as a foreign language is helpful, but that on the preparation of the typescript and figures has been largely superseded by technology. An Englishman, Booth has devoted an entire chapter to an “appeal to North Americans” in which he points out problems that American English can pose for those who do not have English as their first language.

3. James Garland, “Advice to Beginning Physics Speakers,” Physics Today, July 1991, page 42; David Mermin, “What’s Wrong with Those Talks?” Physics Today, November 1992, page 9.

This article gives advice on giving talks that, in the author’s words, “won’t wreak your career or humiliate your advisor.” Mermin’s response, addressed to “Beginning Physics Students (and Intermediate or Advanced Ones,” is a humor piece that makes the point that in most talks “more than 90% of your audience is able to make sense of less than 10% of anything you say.”

4. Barbara Gastel, Presenting Science to the Public, ISI Press (Philadelphia, 1983). 146 pp.

Gastel aims her book at the scientist who wants to communicate to the general public, either indirectly, through the press, or directly, through articles, books or talks. A final chapter deals with a career in science communications. Nicely illustrated with cartoons.

5. Clifford Hawkins, Marco Sorgi, eds., Research: How to Plan, Speak and Write About It. Springer Verlag (Berlin, 1985) 183 pp.

This text is a compilation of chapters by different authors. It is a bit dated, as evidenced by its chapter on using a dictating machine, but some advice on talking and writing is rather timeless.

6. Scott L. Montgomery, The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science, The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 2003). 228 pp.

Straightforward and clear in style, this text offers practical and wise advice. The author has the expected chapters dealing with writing for various purposes (scientific paper, review articles, proposals), making oral presentation, and preparing and using graphics. In addition, he has written a chapter on “Reading Well” (a necessity, he asserts, for writing well), one on English as a foreign language, one on dealing with the press, and one on using the internet.

7. D. Eric Walters, Gale Climenson Walters, Scientists Must Speak, Routledge (London, 2002).

This is a nice, up-to-date book devoted entirely to public speaking. Its three main sections are: Preparation, Delivery, and Special Situations. It’s full of helpful advice.

8. The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 2003).

This manual is the essential reference for authors, editors, copywriters, and publishers in any field. It covers topics ranging from publishing formats to editorial style, from documentation of electronic sources to book production, and everything in between. It includes advice on how to prepare and edit manuscripts online, use the latest methods of preparing mathematical copy, and cite electronic and online sources. It discusses American English grammar and usage, showing how to put words and phrases together to achieve clarity, and identifying common errors.