What makes a great paper? Great science, of course! But that is only part of the equation. A great paper will not usually write itself: as the author of such a piece, you need to know your audience, be mindful of your readers’ time and – perhaps most importantly – lay clear foundations for future developments. I will give a Nature editor’s perspective of what works (and what doesn’t), along with some general “tricks of the trade” for maximising the impact of your written work. At the end of the day, you want your papers to be read, used and (maybe) even enjoyed.