© 2018

The Craft of Scientific Writing


  • Offers well-tested advice, having been used by research engineers and scientists at many national labs and universities for over twenty years

  • Uses scores of interesting examples to teach the principles of scientific writing

  • Fun to read and conversational, focusing on the stylistic traits that distinguish the best scientific writing

  • Has a popular accompanying website which contains many supporting materials for readers of the book and teachers using as a course text


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xx
  2. Michael Alley
    Pages 15-35
  3. Michael Alley
    Pages 37-47
  4. Michael Alley
    Pages 49-67
  5. Michael Alley
    Pages 69-92
  6. Michael Alley
    Pages 93-107
  7. Michael Alley
    Pages 109-133
  8. Michael Alley
    Pages 135-152
  9. Michael Alley
    Pages 199-226
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 227-298

About this book


The Craft of Scientific Writing is designed to help scientists and engineers - both professionals already active in the disciplines as well as students preparing to enter the professions - write about their work clearly and effectively. Written for use as a text in courses on scientific writing, the book includes many useful suggestions about approaching a wide variety of writing tasks from journal papers to grant proposals and from emails to formal reports, as well as a concise guide to style and usage appropriate for scientific writing. Also useful for self-study, the book will be an important reference for all scientists and engineers who need to write about their work.

With this new and updated fourth edition, while most technical writing texts have gotten larger over the years, this one has streamlined, to provide busy readers with the essence of what distinguishes the style of the best scientific documents. With this new edition, readers will learn not just how to organize information, but how to emphasize the key details of that information. Also, readers will not just learn how to cast their ideas into precise and clear sentences, but how to connect these sentences in an energetic fashion.  In the section on language, the new edition goes into much depth about how to make connections between ideas: an important issue that few technical writing texts address. Moreover, the new edition integrates the discussion of illustrations with language because those two aspects of style are so intertwined. Finally, the new edition does a better job of explaining how to make the process of writing more efficient.


From a review of the first edition:

"A refreshing addition to a genre dominated by English teacher-style textbooks. Instead of listing rules that constrain writers, the book uses examples to lay out the path to successful communication … Especially helpful (and entertaining) is the chapter on the writing process. Anyone who has spent more time avoiding a writing task than actually doing it will appreciate Alley's tips."

–Dr. Ellen Ochoa, Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations, Johnson Space Center


adopted-textbook NY research writing science writing science writing book scientific language writing for engineering writing for science

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.College of EngineeringPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

About the authors

Holding a master of science in electrical engineering and a masters in fine arts in writing, Michael Alley is an associate professor of Engineering Communication at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of three popular textbooks: The Craft of Scientific Presentations (2013), The Craft of Editing (2000), and The Craft of Scientific Writing (2017). He has taught scientific writing and presentations to engineers and scientists on four continents, in sixteen countries, and for more than 150 companies, universities, organizations, and agencies.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Craft of Scientific Writing
  • Authors Michael Alley
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4419-8287-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-4419-8288-9
  • Edition Number 4
  • Number of Pages XX, 298
  • Number of Illustrations 14 b/w illustrations, 13 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Popular Science, general
    Physics, general
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Alley gives thorough explanations and color-coded examples about what constitutes a problem and how to fix it, and visual indicators help readers discern the severity of issues being critical, distracting, or cosmetic. The Craft of Scientific Writing is a book that can be valuable to practicing writers who want to work toward more effective, clear scientific writing for a variety of audiences.” (Diane Martinez, Technical Communication, Vol. 65 (4), November, 2018)

“The author discusses the many challenges and distinctions in scientific writing, and the effects that good or bad writing can have on one’s career. … Using real-world writing examples and a host of graphics and figures, the author effectively demonstrates what works, what doesn’t, and why. … This easy-to-digest guide will be useful for engineers, scientists, and anyone interested in writing for a science-minded audience, or about science-related topics.” (S. Markgren, Choice, Vol. 56 (03), November, 2018)​