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Great advice about science writing from the Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust Blog

With the deadline for the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize fast approaching, we thought we’d continue our “How to” series with some tips on how to avoid common mistakes.

Akshat Rathi is the science and data editor of The Conversation UK and has seen his fair share of writing submitted for publication. Here he identifies some of the common mistakes, and shares his advice on how to avoid making them in the first place… 

In science writing, like in life, checklists are useful. Here is one for you to avoid common pitfalls as you sculpt your submission to perfection.

told you once11. Are you overstating or exaggerating?

The most exciting thing about science is that it can have great implications for the future. It is very easy to use these implications as a hook to draw readers. Writers of press releases and promoters of their own work (even if they are respected scientists) can often overstate their case to…

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This weekend, I threw a party for 30 five-year-olds. Call me naive (and many parents did) but this was the plan:

Scan 5The reality was less Oranges and Lemons, and more like riot control.

At least I had plenty of time to think about this blog, as I re-rolled 105 metres of toilet tissue (first rule of riot control: never suggest playing ‘wrap the mummy’).

I was equally naive when imagining life as a full-time writer.

In my head, writing was The Perfect Job to fit around children: serene days at my desk; short breaks for coffee and chores; an early finish for the school run.

In reality, life feels just as frantic as it did when I commuted to an office. Writing eats time, and the more you give it, the greedier it gets. I sit down, become absorbed, and suddenly the day is over. Sometimes, it was over…

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I’m pretty good at throwing away clutter, in the interests of feng shui and less to do at the annual dusting.

The attic, though, is under different jurisdiction, and piled high with rubbish mementos. Luckily, moving house six times in six years has given me plenty of excuses to sift through and find things like the first book I ever wrote. Or at least, the first one I bothered to staple-bind.


A dog visits a zoo. But the cover only hints at the peril that will unfold…


The plucky parrot saves the day, they all get an ice cream and catch the bus home. It’s no Just Jake. But I thought the back cover was quite revealing:


ISBN, series promo and priced in three territories… I’m not surprised this seven-year-old ended up in publishing.

Headshot Isabel Thomas writes non-fiction and fiction for children and teenagers, published by DK, Pearson, Collins, Raintree…

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My City Safari series has just published, and to celebrate I’ve written a guest blog for Project Wild Thing. It’s full of ideas for engaging children in urban wildlife spotting, and you can read it here.


The books are published by Raintree and they introduce 4-to-6-year olds to the hidden lives of urban animals… with clues to help you discover who’s living near you.

If you’re lucky it’ll be this dude:




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