Oceanbites Writing Guide

Oceanbites Writing Styleguide

(based on Astrobites styleguide)

These are guidelines to help you evaluate and improve a piece of writing. They are guidelines, and not rules, because the meta rule in writing is that any rule can be broken if the piece demands it. For constructive criticism and additional support, please contact the editor assigned to your post.

1. Make it Compelling

  • Keep your title short and sweet. Include a “featured image” and an “excerpt” – a few lines, kind of like a teaser (<100 words).
  • The first paragraph should also provide a sense of why the research is important — what is the larger implication or use of the research that makes your summary worth reading?

2. Make it Easy to Understand

  • Write clearly, avoid complicate sentence structure
  • Buy and read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Use correct style and grammar, as defined in The Elements of Style.
  • Although scientists usually write in the passive voice (e.g. “The data were collected”), use the active voice whenever possible (e.g. “Dr. Evil collected the data”).
  • Avoid the “be” verbs whenever possible: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been. Use active verbs instead: measured, considered, anticipated, hypothesized, disagreed, contested, observed, validated, corroborated, confirmed.
  • Brevity – if there are two ways to say the same thing, use the shorter way.
  • Identify jargon. Any word that you would not have learned by the end of high school is jargon. If you use jargon in your piece, link to an appropriate internal glossaries or external (NASA, Wikipedia, etc.) source that explains it. If you use this word multiple times in your piece, provide a brief definition the first time you use it. Avoid using jargon whenever possible.

3. Give it a Story Arc

  • The piece is a story with a beginning, middle and end.
  • The beginning needs to have a hook (see part 1 above).
  • The middle needs to convey the details.
  • The end needs to bring the idea to conclusion, and especially convey why the work was important, and/or what is next.
  • Each paragraph should have a topic sentence. Try to keep paragraphs concise, begin a new paragraph when a new idea is expressed.
  • Each paragraph should transition smoothly into the next. Link the final sentence of the previous paragraph with the first sentence of the next.
  • Consider using bullet points or bold headings to break your post into small, digestible chunks.
  • Consider using a list to itemize your argument.

4. Nitty Gritty

  • Make sure to include a picture/figure from the article
  • Make sure to include a reference and link to original article, with doi
  • When you have finished the first draft of your post, email it, along with the picture and the original article, to the editor assigned to your piece. This should be done no less than 3 days ahead of submission.
  • After the editor writes you back with comments and you’ve edited the piece, publish on oceanbites before noon on your posting date.

5. Publishing Posts on oceanbites:

  • go to http://oceanbites.org/wp-login.php
  • sign in with your username (firstinitiallastname) and your password
  • Go to posts –> add new.
  • Enter the title and text. Upload your picture using the add media button.
  • You can preview your post before publishing to make sure picture sizing, etc. look okay
  • When you’re ready, click Publish. You can still edit the post after publishing.


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