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Geoscience Reporting Guidelines.

Geoscience Reporting Guidelines

by Brian Grant Victoria, 2003 ISBN 0-9687693-14 C $6Z00, spiral bound, 356p.

Brian Grant has long been involved in editing, and in this new book he has made major additions to his Art and Science of Writing Geoscience Reports, which was first published in 1999 and reprinted in 2001. Both books are available from GAC (at the time of this writing, the new volume is on sale at the GAC bookstore for $67.00 to Canadian residents (to US residents US$54.00); the earlier edition was $55 and was reviewed in Volume 26, Number 4).

Almost half this volume is devoted to the techniques of writing reports, with another third being advice on writing. As with any set of guidelines, not every point made may apply to a particular situation, but Grant seems to cover everything. He begins with the initial concepts for a report--tide page, Cataloguing in Publication data (the CIP is one of those things, such as ISSN and ISBN, that is not always needed in a report, but necessary for books), authorship and consistency in author's name. The basic report elements include introductory data such as objectives or terms of reference, location, legalities, property history and previous work, climate and vegetation. Description of the geology begins at the regional scale, followed by the detailed or property geology (e.g., lithology, stratigraphy, paleontology, economic geology, etc.). Other elements include drilling programs, resource reserves estimates, and environmental statement. The basic report ends with topics such as recommendations, budget estimates, references, appendices, and index. This type of report is like an all-encompassing GSC Memoir, or a consultant's report.

Many of our writings of course may not fit this recipe, so Grant has a large section on specialist reports. These examples include university theses, geological field notes, drill core logs, diamond exploration reports, mineral property valuations, feasibility studies, due diligence reports, field trip guidebooks, and oral and poster presentations. The book is recent enough to contain warnings against overdoing the special effects in digital presentations. His advice on posters includes a good point of having take-home copies of your poster for your audience.

Some detail on the look or layout of the report is given in a section entitled "Elements of Graphic Design and Layout". This covers page layout conventions, some detail on different types of typefaces and styles, advice on formatting such as justification, line and symbol spacing, titles and headings, lists and bullets. Lists and bullets have become common now that we have these formatting functions in our "word processor" programs, and these bring new problems--how does one punctuate lists and bulleted points? Buy the book to find out!

A report is usually illustrated, and there are guidelines on how to create effective illustrations. For the self-published report, Grant gives a number of suggestions on where to place the illustrations on a page, and within a report. He comments "professional presentation improves credibility" and gives much detail on drawings, maps, legends, photographs, captions, and tables.

In this updated edition, the advice given on distal data is still current. This chapter covers metadata, data entry conventions, digital archives, file compression, graphic resolutions, computer editing (and the periodic unreliability of it), scanning of maps and photos, digitizing maps, and cartographic techniques.

As I noted above, about one-third of this book is about writing. Many of these points have been said and written before, but sometimes we are guilty of forgetting these rules and guidelines. This section begins with a chapter called "Peer Review, Editing and Proofreading", and the stages of "editing task hierarchy". Grant reminds the reader that self-editing is part of the normal process of creating a report, and he gives us a number of tips. His guidelines for review include a useful checklist for authors, reviewers, and editors. The other parts of this section on writing includes words that are overworked, wasted, contrived, euphemistic, jargons, metaphors and buzz, cluttered, redundant, and misused. All good stylebooks have to cover grammar. Grant gives us a few simple points on clauses, subjects, nouns, pronouns, verb tense, adjectives and adverbs, prepositions, and gender. There are pages of recommended spelling of geoscience words, what words to capitalize, and guidelines on hyphenation, punctuation, abbreviations, Latin words and phrases, symbols, numbers, and measures.

Included is an important chapter on coordinate systems for geographic locations--GPS, NAD 27 vs. NAD 83, and formatting geographic position information from grids such as spherical, UTM, DLS, and NTS. In addition to having a useful table of contents, the book closes with nine pages of indexed terms.

To comment on the book itself, I like its small size (9 x 6 inches). The fact that it is wire bound is good because it can be folded for reading. What I do not like is the use of two colours for text--when it is to be reprinted the author should look into another means of highlighting. The regular text is completely readable. However, the text used as a highlight to stress important points is red and thus hard to read, especially when it is in italics. This then creates the opposite effect of what the highlighting is meant to do--I know it is important, but I cannot read it easily. Even Geolog blue might have been a better choice than red.

The user of this book should remember that although Grant's advice is good, some parts are in his own style, and if you are submitting a manuscript to a journal their guidelines must be followed. Grant ends his book with valuable Internet resources and several pages of "Sources of Rules & Inspiration". Some of these sources are especially useful--for example, the GSC's Guide to Authors--GSC Open File 3600 (1998, 194 pp., $15.00). It was written, like its previous versions, to act a guide to writers of GSC publications. But it too contains a wealth of information on the editorial side of writing. It can be seen in web form in English at: (, and in French at: (

Another useful, and inexpensive book is The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing, which was originally produced in 1985 by the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada. The 1997 version (ISBN 1-55002-276-8) is a revised and expanded edition. This has a counterpart--Guide du redacteur de l'administration federale. The English version can be found on for as little as $10.87 US, and can be ordered from the government's publications website ( for $29.37 including taxes and shipping.

Geoscience Reporting Guidelines is the best of these three (despite its red highlights), but for relatively little cost, students and professionals, and editors could have all three.

A.D. McCracken

Geological Survey of Canada

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Author:McCracken, A.D.
Publication:Geoscience Canada
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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