Advice from our PhD proofreaders and editors: 5 Helpful Writing Tips

While writing a scientific text, using a specialist PhD proofreading and editing service, such as eCORRECTOR, is the most efficient way of making sure that you submitted manuscript ready for publication. You can find out more about our proofreading and editing service offered by eCORRECTOR here. It is advisable to let someone else read the paper: our minds tend to overlook the logic-related gaps in structures we have created ourselves. Despite our shortcomings, each author can perfect his or her work language-wise by following a few simple steps. Below are some tips, provided by our PhD proofreaders and editors, which authors can immediately use when writing articles. Click here to find out more about our PhD proofreaders and editors who work on your texts.

1. Writing scientific text may be demanding – keep it simple

Keep your writing simple and straightforward. Long sentences with several subordinate clauses often lead to confusion. They may be perfectly clear in your native language, but ambiguous when put into English. It is best to split up such sentences into two or three shorter ones, making sure that the meaning of words such as ‘substance’ or ‘process’ is obvious. If there is more than one complex, it is possible to refer to these as ‘complex 1’, complex 2’, etc. On the other hand, using only short, single-phrase sentences may seem somewhat immature. This aspect of the text must be balanced – conjunctions are indispensable when it comes to structuring the flow of thoughts within your publication.

2. Avoid “time travel”

The bulk of a paper, including the experimental methods and results, is generally written in the past tense. Shifting between past and present tenses in the middle of a description should be avoided.

3. Be mindful of your wording – non-native hardships

Another frequent problem is the misuse of ‘made’ where ‘carried out’ or ‘run’ is needed. For example, ‘The experiment was made under both acidic and basic conditions’ should in fact be ‘The experiment was run (performed) under both acidic and basic conditions.’ In English, we make a cake or make a noise, but carry out or run experiments. Many researchers, including senior investigators, also make this mistake when talking about their PhD and say ‘when I made my PhD research’, whereas it should be ‘when I carried out my PhD research’.

Linking devices must be checked for their function, as it is easy to misguide the reader by using “furthermore” or “consequently” in the wrong context.

4. Run your own spell check while writing scientific text

Mixing UK and US English spelling is probably the most common inconsistency, while writing scientific text. This can be improved easily by running a spellcheck in a text editor. This may also identify many other typos or errors in the text. It is also important to keep in mind that in American English, a comma is placed before “and/or” in lists, the so-called “serial comma”, which is omitted in British English.

5. Misplaces commas and apostrophes

Misplaced apostrophes, such as in ‘Alzheimers’ disease’ (should be ‘Alzheimer’s disease’) or ‘Both precipitate’s were…’ (should be ‘Both precipitates were…’), are a common source of misunderstandings. Similarly, in statistics, it should be a ‘Student’s t-test’ with a capital letter and an apostrophe, since ‘Student’ was a pseudonym used in research.

When denoting decimals, for Polish readers, a comma (,) is used rather than a decimal point (.). This mistake can be dangerous if the target reader assumes the English manner of writing numbers. Stating ‘Carefully add 1,250 g of the unstable catalyst’ when this should be 1.250 g, might lead to one thousand two hundred and fifty grams being added, when it should be just one and a quarter. All English-speaking countries use full stops (periods) to separate decimals.writing scientific text

For more tips and advice on academic writing visit our scientist’s library which contains helpful advice on all aspects of writing, including how to respond to reviewers comments. We also encourage you to visit our Facebook profile to be up-to-date with eCORRECTOR’s news.

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