This free, self-paced, on-line class from Stanford University presents simple rules of style that can significantly improve written communication. It is organized into eight learning units consisting of video lectures, quizzes, and editing exercises. Each unit should take between two and six hours to complete. After finishing all the units, learners take a multiple-choice final exam. Two optional writing exercises provide opportunities to give and receive feedback from other participants in the course.
In the first four units, learners review principles of effective writing, look at examples of good and bad writing, and receive tips for making the writing process easier. These units can also benefit writers from outside the scientific fields. The second half of the course focuses on topics specifically relevant to scientific writers, including authorship, peer review, the format of an original manuscript, and communicating with non-scientific audiences.
Unit 1 – Introduction; principles of effective writing (cutting unnecessary clutter)
Unit 2 – Principles of effective writing (verbs)
Unit 3 – Crafting better sentences and paragraphs
Unit 4 – Organization; and streamlining the writing process
Unit 5 – The format of a scientific manuscript
Unit 6 – Peer review and ethical issues in scientific publishing
Unit 7 – Reviews, grants, letters of recommendation, and personal essays
Unit 8 – How to communicate with the lay public