What’s the best trick academics can learn from journalists? Don’t start with what I call the ‘boring background’ — find a ‘hook’ instead. Too often, you only find out why you’re reading an essay or article on the second page, after a page of facts and figures, key dates, broader context, and so on. Academic writing is not journalism but you might still choose to start with a striking fact, key question or core idea. Here’s one from my colleague Heather Dyer: ‘Fifty miles from Victoria, British Columbia, the earth is splitting.’ After your reader has been ‘hooked’ you can then retrace your steps to cover how and where and when this question arises. That’s your ‘boring background’ — except it’s not boring any more, because your reader now knows it is there for a reason. And when you return to the core idea, the reader gets that satisfying feeling of looking at it in a new light.