Getting your science style right – there’s a new guide to help

Should it be ‘compare with’ or ‘compare to’? When do you use a pie graph? Is there a space between the number and the unit? Should it be ‘Earth’, or ‘the Earth’? Do you capitalise ‘government’?*

The answers to all these questions and more can now be found in the online Australian manual of scientific style (AMOSS), developed by Biotext. AMOSS was released in October 2016, and is already generating interest from science communicators and government departments. As part of our commitment to the community of Australian science communicators, Biotext would like to offer a discounted subscription rate of $50 to ASC group members – just email for the code.

Until now, there has been no Australian science style manual. People have relied on overseas guides, general writing guides or guides that focused on only one field of science. Biotext found itself in a position to provide a style guide that covered a wide range of disciplines, for the Australian context.

Why could Biotext do this? Biotext, established in 1999, is a Canberra company specialising in science writing, editing and design. Biotext’s team of writers, editors and designers had developed a range of resources over the years, including a style guide for common science and technical terms, guidance on data visualisation, and training materials on science writing and editing.

In other words, we know what the science communication community needs because we are also the users of the manual! AMOSS:

  • brings together scientific conventions and standards for many scientific disciplines and aspects of communication, from writing clearly to getting a graph right
  • is researched, written and tested specifically for an Australian audience
  • is online, searchable and dynamic.

And we encourage users to be part of the ‘AMOSS community’. ASC members are invited to provide feedback about the manual in general or in their own fields of expertise. We will be regularly updating and expanding AMOSS, and we welcome all ideas and comments, which may be incorporated in the current version or future versions. Since we are mainly a bio-focused organisation, some disciplines in particular would benefit from additional information. For example, we would appreciate input in the fields of:

  • geography
  • climate science
  • physics
  • Earth and the universe.

Even if you don’t subscribe, you can see the extent of the topics AMOSS covers by visiting

* ‘Compare with’ means to consider similarities or differences between 2 or more items, whereas ‘compare to’ means to liken to; almost never; yes; Earth; no.

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