Rules for Scientific Writing

In general, the best writing is simple and direct. Writing that is simple and direct is most easily understood. It also tends to be the most forceful and memorable. Use no more words than necessary and never use a complicated word if a simpler one will do just as well. Many people seem to feel that writing in a complicated way makes one sound serious, scholarly and authoritative. While this type of writing may sound serious, it is no more authoritative than writing that is simple and direct. Certainly, it is more difficult to understand. Often, it sounds pompous and overbearing. If your purpose is to be understood in a way that is both forceful and memorable, adopt a style that is simple and direct.

  • Interest, inform, and persuade the reader
  • Write for your reader and write clearly
  • Eliminate unnecessary redundancy
  • Avoid digressions
  • Don’t over explain and avoid overstatement
  • Avoid unnecessary qualifiers
  • Use consistent tenses
  • Use the precise word
  • Simpler words are preferred over complex words and use concrete words and examples
  • Simpler sentences are preferred over more complicated sentences
  • Use the active voice (except generally in methods)
  • Make sure the subject and verb agree
  • Use affirmative rather than negative constructions
  • Avoid use of the indefinite “this”
  • Use transitions
  • Cite sources as well as findings
  • Proofread your paper carefully; spell check does not catch everything; “there” is spelled correctly but not if you meant “their”

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Posted in Scientific writing, Writing

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