Maximizing the signal, decreasing the noise; Writing skills for communicating clearly

About this seminar

This seminar introduces Professor Tobias Baskin’s writing philosophy in the form of a set of guidelines for writing clearly that is based on how people read. In writing, grammar is (mainly) fixed, but meanings (information, content) can go almost anywhere. Baskin’s guidelines will help you understand how to place information within a text to maximize the reader’s comprehension. His presentation will help you write for any audience, ranging from the public to scientists in your own field.

About the speaker

Proessor Tobias Baskin is a plant physiologist who studies growth and development. He recieved his PhD from Paul Green at Stanford University, and did postdoctoral research with Zach Cande at UC Berkeley and Richard Wiliamsson at Australian National University. He has been teaching writing to graduate students since the mid-1990s, first at the University of Missouri–Columbia and now at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He says, “I love to write (usually), and I am happy to help people learn to write more clearly.” In addidtion to his research writing, Tobias writes a blog called “Lab Fab“. Lab website:


Slide presentation

Video recording of webinar

Sources mentioned in Baskin’s Webinar (3/14/19) on writing clearly

 Style, Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph Williams. This is the ur-text for the guidelines I present. It is available in myriad editions and slightly different titles. And free on the web here:

Gopen GD, Swan JA (1990) The science of scientific writing. American Scientist 78: 550 – 558.

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Steven Pinker, Penguin, NY.2014.

Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write. Helen Sword, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2017

Lab Fab (Baskin’s blog)