Acknowledgments

First and foremost, my thanks go to my workshop participants and University students of the past 10 years, without whom this book would not have been written. Their active participation, questioning, and challenging of issues during workshops encouraged me to put into print the most important aspects of scientific writing. I am most grateful to my colleagues whose input greatly helped to shape the contents of this book. A very special thank you goes to my favorite linguist, Seraina...

And Theneithernor Linkage

If none specifically means not any, a plural verb is preferable None of the experiments were able to produce the intended results. If none clearly means not one, use a singular verb None of the applicants for research grants is fully qualified. In sentences with more than one subject, the linkage neither nor may create a problem with respect to the verb form. The correct verb form depends on whether you link singular or plural nouns. If the nouns linked are...

Companyinternal Conventions Of Style And Format

Although much effort has gone into harmonizing style conventions for international exchange of scientific information, some organizations maintain a tradition of casual reporting. The tradition of poor writing is often handed down from supervisors to staff members, who, in turn, pass it on to new employees with limited writing experience. In my workshops, I frequently challenge certain inbred conventions, to which I usually get the reply We have always done it this way Serious deficiencies in...

Dictionaries

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield, Mass. Merriam-Webster Inc. 2006. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 29th ed. Philadelphia W.B. Saunders 2000. USP Dictionary of USAN and International Drug Names. United States Pharmacopeia 2006. Available from The Merck Index. An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals. 14th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ Merck & Co., Inc. 2006.

Double Negatives

Double negatives are rarely needed in scientific reporting. More often than not, they render statements clumsy and difficult to grasp. A second negative usually cancels the first. Table 6.1 lists some common double negatives and offers a positive alternative. Table 6.1 Double Negatives and Their Positive Meaning Table 6.1 Double Negatives and Their Positive Meaning Diabetes is not uncommon among hypertensive patients. Diabetes is common among hypertensive patients. Not very many of the...

Doubling Prepositions

Clumsy writing may sometimes come from the doubling of prepositions, as shown in the examples below Incorrect I cannot comment on the importance of this finding because the topic is outside of my own field. Correct I cannot comment on the importance of this finding because the topic is outside my own field. Incorrect The test mice remained inside of their cages during the entire experimental period. Correct The test mice remained inside their cages during the entire experimental period. Inside...

Exercise Consistent Spelling

Correct any spelling errors in the following sentences, bearing the target audience in mind. Please note that some sentences need no correction. SENTENCES CONTAINING SPELLING CORRECTIONS ERRORS British journal Clinical chemistry tests (i.e., hematocrit, haemoglobin, and hematuria) were performed at a single study center to minimize variability between laboratories. American research report All histological and histopathologic findings from the foetuses confirmed the presence of multiple...

Exercise I Using Tenses In Scientific Reporting

Consider the following sentences and label them correct incorrect with respect to tense. Rewrite the sentences you consider incorrect. SECTIONS AND SENTENCES WITH INCORRECT CORRECT for analysis of plasma concentrations of parent compound and metabolites is an Results The epidemiological data collected in this clinical trial were listed in Table 1 Results The subclones containing the D- helix substitutions were reassembled into Discussion In our study we find that there are significantly fewer...

Exercise Limiting The Number Of Prepositions

In the sentences below, identify the prepositions and determine the ratio of prepositions to other words. Recast the sentences to achieve a more acceptable ratio of prepositions to other words. SENTENCES CONTAINING TOO MANY CORRECTED SENTENCES PREPOSITIONS The information on qualitative method comparison of assays for drugs of abuse is summarized in the flowchart below. The incidence of events of appetite suppression in children treated with Ritalin in a population of school children in the USA...

Exercise Proper Punctuation

Correct any punctuation errors in the following sentences. Please note that some sentences need no correction. SENTENCES CONTAINING PUNCTUATION ERRORS 1. Moreover our findings are in good agreement, with published data 2. Medicinal products, which are produced from bovine sources, are now being replaced by nonbovine materials. 3. In general, scientific writing is an interesting task. 4. The committee members concluded, that the project is well-structured and should go ahead as planned. 5. The...

Exercise Using Numbers And Percentages Correctly

Using the rules for writing numbers and expressing percentages, correct the following sentences SENTENCES CONTAINING ERRONEOUS CORRECTIONS NUMBERS 15 patients were enrolled in the clinical study in Spain. A mean half-life of 2.5 h was calculated from the plasma concentrations of eight male and fourteen female rats. After a further 4 h, we added H2O (five mL) and NADH (ten mL ) to the incubation mixture. The production campaign comprised lots of five, ten, and twenty kg of raw material. The...

Genderinclusive Language

Although sexist writing is not as common as it used to be, we still see too much of it in scientific texts. The problem arises because English has no singular pronoun that includes both males and females. Consequently, certain groups of people, such as patients, teachers, or medical professionals, are sometimes described as being exclusively male or female, as shown in the examples below Sexist writing The general practitioner should refer his patient to a specialist if he deems this necessary....

Introduction

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana The main purpose of scientific writing is to record data. Without a written record of our findings, there is no proof that we have done the research, and precious information may be lost. Many an experiment may have to be repeated, simply because there is no record of the data. Needless to say, this negligence adversely impacts on the efficiency of sharing scientific knowledge. One of the main challenges of...

Jargonized Writing

Scientific groups often use their own jargons that may well be understood by the members of such groups. However, authors are often unaware that no one outside their group uses these terms. This applies just as much to abbreviations and acronyms that are not commonly understood. Let us consider an example What does CV stand for The abbreviation can mean several different things, such as cardiovascular, coefficient of variation, or even curriculum vitae. If you have the slightest doubt as to...

List Of Tables

SI Fundamental Units of Measurement 26 Examples of Proper and Common Nouns 35 Words Not Capitalized if Used as Designators 37 Rules for Applying the Appropriate Tense 43 Tenses Typically Occurring in a Paper or Report 43 The Two Types of Conjunctions 45 Plural Nouns Requiring Plural Verbs 50 Using Special Nouns Correctly 51 Typical Collective Nouns 51 Collective Nouns with Both Singular and Plural Forms 52 The Rule of Meaning Applied Properly 53 Placing the Adverb before the Verb for Emphasis...

Mastering Scientific And Medical Writing

MEDIWRITE GmbH Leimenstrasse 57 CH-4051 Basel Switzerland Library of Congress Control Number 2006926502 ISBN 103-540-34507-8 Springer Berlin Heidelberg New York ISBN 13 978-3-540-34507-7 Springer Berlin Heidelberg New York This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other way, and...

Plurals Of Abstractions And Attributes

Plurals of abstractions and attributes often cause difficulty in scientific writing. Let us consider an example The mood of the child changed suddenly. In the sentence above, would three children have three moods Although it may seem logical to use the plural if you refer to more than one individual, idiomatic usage of abstractions (e.g., behavior, mood, curiosity) or attributes possessed in common (e.g., tolerability, efficacy) is to use the singular. Incorrect The stimulant drug clearly...

Preface

If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him first be clear in his thoughts. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe You may ask why anyone would want to write yet another book about scientific writing. There are many books on the subject, some more useful than others, and the abundance of literature on this topic may confuse rather than guide. I felt that this book was necessary for several reasons. During the past years, I have learnt much about the needs of scientific communicators, both through my...

Prejudice And Semantic Labeling

In recent years, writers, especially scientific writers, have become increasingly aware of language sensitivities. It is in the interest of the author to encourage the reader to carry on reading the manuscript or publication thus, any offense to the reader will probably get in the way of this objective. Readers may be upset by any term that excludes, embarrasses, hurts, or labels them. Such terms may be sexist or racist in nature, but it is fair to say that they are mostly used unconsciously...

Published Literature

The CONSORT statement revised recommendations for improving the quality of reports of parallel group randomized trials. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 2001 1 2. Available from http www.consort-statement.org. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals writing and editing for biomedical publication. Available from http www.icmje.org. Locke J. The plain language movement. AMWA Journal...

Racist Writing

Like gender, race and ethnicity are cultural constructs, but they can have biological implications. Certain diseases occur exclusively or predominantly in a specific ethnic group, for example sickle cell anemia in persons with African ancestry or lactose intolerance in Chinese or Japanese subjects. Thus, it may be important to specify the race or ethnicity of subjects to whom a scientific or medical finding applies. Authors should explain and justify racial designators used, and such terms...

Redundancies In Scientific Reporting

Redundancies are common troublemakers in scientific communication. They come in various forms, some more obvious than others, but all of them unnecessary or even disturbing. Common redundancies include double negatives or doubling of words that have the same meaning (tautology). Many of the words or expressions we use in scientific writing are useless but we still go on using them, mostly because others do so too. When I mention such terms in my lectures, students often argue that they have...

Shifting Emphasis By Choosing The Voice

If the subject of the sentence performs the action, the sentence is in the active voice, but if the subject of the sentence is the recipient of the action, the sentence is passive. Active The team studied the genetic mutations. Passive The genetic mutations were studied by the team. Although the two sentences say more or less the same thing, the emphasis is different. While the active sentence stresses the doer, i.e., the team, the passive wording places emphasis on the subject studied, i.e.,...

Structuring Scientific Texts Getting Thestoryout

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. Mark Twain Proper structuring of scientific manuscripts adds much value to their ease of digestion. The following techniques are helpful when drafting journal articles and other research reports Use a short, informative title If permitted by the journal or organizer in question, reveal conclusions in the title,...

Syntax Order Of Words Modifying Phrases

For a sentence to make sense, the words must be presented in a logical sequence. If the words are not in reasonable order, the result can be ridiculous, as shown below Confusing syntax We selected an investigator with considerable expertise in the field called Mike Miller. Confusing syntax The study involved a small group of children in a Swiss children's hospital with juvenile diabetes. Is the expertise called Mike Miller Does the Swiss hospital suffer from juvenile diabetes Clearly, the...

Table Of Contents

2 Good Versus Poor Scientific Writing An Orientation 3 2.1 What Is Good Scientific Writing 3 2.2 The Plain Language Movement 4 2.3 The BASO Pyramid of Scientific Writing 6 2.4 Common Myths and Misconceptions 9 2.4.1 What Are Myths and Misconceptions 9 2.4.2 Long and Complicated Sentences 10 2.4.3 Misusing or Wasting Specific and Generic Terms 11 2.4.4 Reluctance to Use First-Person Pronouns and Overuse of Passive Voice 11 2.4.5 Tendency to Turn Sharp and Powerful Verbs into Weighty Nouns 12 3...

The Relative Pronounswhich And That

Proper usage of that and which troubles many writers, as does the question whether or not a comma should be placed before these pronouns. Relative pronouns refer to a previous noun in subordinate clauses. The pronoun that introduces a restrictive clause, i.e., a clause that is essential to the meaning of the sentence. In such sentences, there is no comma before the relative pronoun. In the past, the only possible pronoun in such sentences was that, but nowadays many writers use which in place...

What Are Danglers

Unfortunately, verbal phrase danglers are abundant in scientific reporting. They contribute substantially to misleading messages and confused writing. In most cases, the problem arises from a lack of logical thinking or poor word order. Many danglers escape the author's and or editor's attention because their brains may deduce the intended message, disregarding the fact that the sentence says something totally different. Needless to say, guesswork is incompatible with science, and it is...

What Cangowrong When Quoting Published Material

References in reports and journal articles serve two main purposes, namely documentation and acknowledgment. In either case, references form a critical part of the manuscript and must therefore undergo close scrutiny by both the author(s) and editor(s). Studies show that 50 to 75 of all quoted literature references contain at least one erroneous item. These errors come about by copying lists of references from previous papers or reports that are likely to contain irregularities. In this way,...

What Style Should I

Styles of handling references vary considerably, and many different formats exist. Some companies create their own internal conventions that may deviate from commonly used journal styles (see also 5.6, Company-Internal Conventions of Style and Format). Whatever reference style is followed, consistency throughout the manuscript (report, journal article, or book) is important. An effort has been made to harmonize reference formats across journals and other documents to minimize citation errors...

Sexistwriting And Genderbiased Expressions Sexversus Gender

When do we use the term sex, and when is gender appropriate The question is a frequent one that cannot be settled easily in all cases. The American Medical Association Manual of Style has to say this Sex refers to the biological characteristics of males and females. Gender includes more than sex and serves as a cultural indicator of a person's personal and social status. An important consideration when referring to sex is the level of specificity required specify sex when it is relevant. All...

Position Of Prepositions In Sentences

Most scientific communicators seem to know the rule that prepositions should not end a sentence. However, by rigidly adhering to this rule, writers run the risk of producing stilted, confusing messages. According to an old story, Winston Churchill once made this comment about a sentence that clumsily avoided a prepositional ending This is the sort of English up with which I will not put (In Plain Words, by Sir Edwin Gowers, first published in 1948). Most modern grammarians and linguists take a...

Tautology Repeated And Redundantwords

Tautology is the repetition of words with similar meaning, often disguised and always undetected by the spell checker. Avoiding tautologies is an important measure to keep scientific texts as lean as possible. Moreover, needless repetition of the same sense in different words confuses the reader. Table 6.2 shows some typical examples of tautological and otherwise redundant expressions. Appendix 10.4 lists other awkward phrases to avoid. Table 6.2 Tautological and Redundant Expressions to Avoid...

Why Argue About Activepassive Voice

Passive versus active voice in scientific writing has been a controversial issue for many years. Without any doubt, the tradition of using the passive voice in scientific reporting is firmly engraved in scientists' brains. Many scientific communicators believe that it is inappropriate, even impolite, to use the personal pronouns such as I or we. They would prefer to say, it was studied rather than I studied or we studied. Note here that the passive sentence does not tell us who studied the...

Using Vancouver Style

The Uniform Requirements suggest the bibliographic style formats that were developed for uniformity by the NLM. Because of its origin, this reference style is termed Vancouver style. Since Vancouver style continues to gain broad acceptance, this format is almost always the bibliographic style of choice (see also 5.5, The House Style of Journals). Unless the journal specifies a different convention, references should be numbered consecutively in the order in which they are first mentioned in the...

The Main Punctuation Marks In Scientific Writing

Use after an introductory word (often an Use to set off a nonessential clause. - Scientists, who often work overtime, tend to lack the time for writing manuscripts. Use after an introductory (prepositional or - Generally speaking, this is sound advice. Use to separate two independent clauses in a - All blood samples were processed, and PUNCTUATION MARK SYMBOL AND HOW TO USE IT PROPERLY Comma, continued Use to set off appositives or interrupting - Alzheimer's disease, named after Dr. Alois...

The Verb To Be In Copula Formulations

One of the arguments in favor of the active voice concerns the abundance of the verb to be in scientific literature. To be does not only occur in every passive sentence but may also be used as an auxiliary in so-called copula formulations. Here, to be acts as the main verb, and although such sentences are not strictly passive, they add to the abundance of the verb to be. Here are some examples of such sentences Dr Sarah Craven is the author of the book. The design of the clinical trial was...

Orthography And Punctuation

It's the punctilious attention to detail, in a time when nobody even bothers to get the spelling of your name right. Holly Brubach 3.1 CORRECT SPELLING 3.1.1 GETTING WORDS RIGHT The spelling of English is erratic and often illogical. Thus, for a non-native speaker of English, correct spelling is difficult to learn and requires constant reading of English-language material and intensive study of the subject. Words in medical, scientific, and technical texts must be spelled correctly (see also...

Forming Sentences Grammar

There's a great power in words, if you don't hitch too many of them together. We may know much about the proper structuring of a paper and correct spelling of words, but this does not suffice to produce a compelling manuscript. Ultimately, the power of our text hinges on the competent use of the English language. If your native tongue does not happen to be English, using proper and powerful grammar may be more difficult, but even if you are a native English speaker, you may occasionally...

Limiting Modifiers And Other Decorativewords Excessive Adjectives Adverbs And Nouns

Modifiers specify or describe the meaning of another term. In most cases, modifiers are adjectives (modifying nouns), adverbs (modifying verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs), or nouns (modifying other nouns). Table 5.3 shows examples of each modifier type. a statistically significantly higher result Modifiers add richness, sparkle, and precision to otherwise dull descriptions, but overloading scientific statements with unnecessary decorative words distracts the reader. The verbosity frequently...

Good Versus Poor Scientific Writing An Orientation

Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be said can be said clearly. Ludwig Wittgenstein 2.1 WHAT IS GOOD SCIENTIFIC WRITING When we declare that a certain text is better than another, we rely on a scale of values, with good at one end, and poor at the other. But who sets the standards for good and poor scientific writing Who is the ultimate judge Who censors the quality of our scientific texts While general opinion of what is correct may be divided,...

Overuse Of Prepositions

Winston Churchill once described prepositions as an enormously versatile part of grammar, as in What made you pick this book I didn't want to be read to out of up for I guess it takes a special talent to construct a sentence that ends with five prepositions in a row. At the same time, it takes a special skill to grasp such messages on first reading. Prepositions are connecting links showing a relationship between the object of the preposition and the modifying prepositional sentence. Therefore,...

Oxymorons

Oxymorons are contradictory expressions. How can terms such as false facts or a genuine lie make sense Because oxymorons tend to be ambivalent, they should be avoided in scientific writing. Nonetheless, there are a few oxymorons that are commonly used. Examples are ill health, common sense, bad grammar, disorganized system, conspicuous absences, or cruel kindness. Q When using an oxymoron, make sure the term is commonly known and its use is appropriate in scientific communication.

Dangling Participles

A participle is a verb form that acts as an adjective. Most participles end in ing, ed, or en. Participles have some of the features of a verb, such as tense, voice, and requirement for an object. A participle is said to dangle if its implied subject is not the subject of the main clause of the sentence. Thus, a dangling participle implies an actor but does not specify who or what it is, thereby leaving proper participle-subject matching up to the reader. In some instances, this may lead to...

Reference Manager Tools

Nowadays, many authors use a reference manager software to facilitate the formatting of reference lists. Such tools provide the formats for many of the standard reference styles accepted by journals. At the touch of a key, the entire reference list is formatted in a selected style. If your manuscript is rejected by the chosen journal, you can reformat the references to meet the requirements of another journal. Reference manager tools are very accurate and tend to facilitate the handling of...

The House Styleof Journals

Nowadays, most good journals provide detailed instructions for authors of manuscripts seeking publication. Such instructions are commonly referred to as the journal's house style. Although individual house styles may still vary to some extent, considerable effort has gone into harmonizing standards and formats among scientific journals. The most important initiative in this respect is the generation of the document entitled Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals...

Modifier Strings

Some languages, German for example, permit the use of modifier clusters to describe another word, usually a noun. English is more ruthless with modifier strings. Usually, two descriptive words that qualify another term are about as far as you can go. Take a look at this muddled sentence Modifier strings in sentences The blinded report procedure planning meeting organization was done by the clinical trial monitor. This awkward sentence can only be cured of its modifier strings by replacing some...

About The Author

Rogers, BSc, PhD, is the founder and owner of MEDIWRITE, a successful small company in Basel, Switzerland. She trained at the University of Liverpool, UK, in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics headed by Professor Sir Alasdair Breckenridge. Before forming MEDIWRITE in 1994, she gained extensive experience in key areas of pharmaceutical research, including project management in a major pharmaceutical company. She is an active member of the American Medical Writers...

What Is Style Inthe Context Of Scientific Writing

Style is one of those terms that can mean anything or nothing at all. Robert Day defines style as the personality of a scientific manuscript see Robert Day, 1995 Scientific English. A Guide for Scientists and Other Professionals . He emphasizes that each publication has its own personality, dictated by both the writing style used and the particular journal's editorial requirements. Good scientific writing is not only a matter of correctness it is often just as much a question of good style and...

Ageism

Discrimination based on age is ageism and usually concerns older people. Bear in mind that old and young are relative terms. In the eyes of children, subjects beyond the age of 30 years tend to be old, while a middle-aged person considers the 30-year olds as young. With increasing age, the division between young and old tends to shift. In studies that involve humans, age should always be given specifically. Whenever possible, avoid general terms, such as old people or the elderly. In studies...

Scientific Writing Rules At A Glance

Successful communication in science involves clarity and simplicity, short sentences, transparency, and consistency. Biomedical communicators and scientific writers do not need to dumb down scientific writing or omit technical terms to write plainly and clearly. However, they do need to define or explain terms that their audiences may not recognize. They also need to write logically, building from what information the reader knows to what new information the reader will learn in the article....

Exercise Avoiding Excessive Passive Voice

Consider the voice of the following sentences and mark them with an A for active or a P for passive. Which ones of the passive sentences would be more powerful in the active voice Recast the selected sentences in the active voice and comment on the change. Treatment with a single tablet has been shown to be as effective as a 7-day therapy with the cream 1 . Usually, centrifugation for 15 min suffices to separate the two layers. Immediately after the accident, the 80-year old woman was taken to...

Selected Books

The Craft of Scientific Writing. 3rd ed. New York Springer 1998. Barlow Pugh M. ed. . American Medical Association Manual of Style. A Guide for Authors and Editors. 9th ed. Baltimore, Maryland Williams amp Wilkins 1998. Bonk RJ. Medical Writing in Drug Development. A Practical Guide for Pharmaceutical Research. New York Haworth Press Inc. 1998. CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. Scientific Style and Format. The Mannual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. 6th ed....

Lighthearted View Of Scientific Jargon

The following phrases and their cynical definitions will help you understand that mysterious language of science and medicine. I didn't look up the original reference. These data are practically meaningless. While it has not been possible to provide definitive answers to the questions An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published. Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study. The other results didn't make any sense. These results will be in a subsequent report. Will...

Exercise Using Respectively Properly

Consider the sentences below and identify those where the use of respectively is unnecessary or even wrong SENTENCES CONTAINING CORRECTED SENTENCES Blood and urine samples were taken after 2 h and 4 h, respectively. At Visit 1, subjects received the necessary drug supply, a micturition diary to be filled in twice a day, and a full study description to be signed at the next visit, respectively. SENTENCES CONTAINING CORRECTED SENTENCES Validation data showed good agreement if generated in-house...

Position Of Adverbs In Sentences

Adverbs qualify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. A traditional rule of grammar says that the adverb should follow, rather than split, the infinitive of the verb in sentences where the adverb modifies the verb. This issue has created much attention over the years. Writers who know little about English grammar seem, however, to be aware of the rule that infinitives e.g., to go should not be split by an adverb e.g., to boldly go . Nowadays, most grammarians and linguists will agree that this...

Exercise Avoiding Tautological And Other Redundant Expressions

In the sentences below, identify the tautological and otherwise redundant expressions. Recast the sentences by removing any unnecessary words. If a serious adverse event occurred, the study was immediately terminated The mice in the first experiment were The finding may potentially indicate product stability and enzyme activity. We were astonished by the end result. We believe that the potential hazards We selected the most unique clinical

Exercise Using Modifiers In Moderation

In the sentences below, identify the modifiers and classify them as adjectives, adverbs, or noun modifiers. Rewrite the sentences by retaining the essential modifiers and removing all decorative words. Future proposed and essential changes to the currently applied validation process and for the ideal and suitable equipment will be thoroughly and extensively reviewed by the responsible process change committee. This statistically significantly different result was more than surprising after the...

Exercise Avoiding Verbal Phrase Danglers

Consider the following examples of danglers and correct the sentences by restoring the syntax word order VERBAL PHRASE DANGLERS CORRECTED SENTENCES Being the first member of the pharmacological class, the database of this ACE inhibitor served as a model. Lying on top of the gut, you can see a thin tissue. While having lunch, the reaction mixture exploded. In analyzing the data statistically, the Salmonella infections were indeed rare. Considering the observed pharmacodynamic effect, the data...