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Common Writing Problems APS Professional Skills Course: Writing and Reviewing for Scientific Journals.

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Presentation on theme: "Common Writing Problems APS Professional Skills Course: Writing and Reviewing for Scientific Journals."— Presentation transcript:

1 Common Writing Problems APS Professional Skills Course: Writing and Reviewing for Scientific Journals

2 Six Rules for Writing Or How to Make Friends of Editors, Reviewers, & Copy Editors

3 Rule #1: Know Your Grammar Avoid dangling modifiers or participles Watch for subject-verb agreement Use complete sentences Watch for commonly misused words

4 Dangling Modifiers or Participles One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I don't know (Groucho Marx) Place modifiers (e.g., adjectives, adverbs) near the words they describe Rewrite sentences to avoid dangling participles –After adding the drug, the heart showed an increased response. Or –The heart showed an increased response after the drug was added.

5 Subject-Verb Agreement and Conjugations Subject-Verb Agreement –The word, data, is plural Data show NOT Data shows (Hint: Substitute results for data) –Media (plural) vs. medium (singular) Conjugations –When terms are joined by and the subject of the sentence is usually plural Blood pressure and heart rate were increased. NOT Blood pressure and heart rate was increased. –When terms are joined by or or nor, the subject of the sentence is usually singular Neither blood pressure nor heart rate was increased. NOT Neither blood pressure nor heart rate were increased. If you are not sure, check a grammar book or website

6 Use Complete Sentences Can happen in cut and paste editing May be missed by spell-checker functions Make sure each sentence has a noun (subject) and verb (predicate) –Example 1: We saved the supernatant. –Example 2: The central nucleus of the amygdala is known. –Example 3: Although the central nucleus of the amygdala is known. –Example 4: And so a significant difference was seen.

7 Homonyms Words that sound alike (or nearly alike) but have different meanings –Affect, effect –Discrete, discreet –Principle, principal –Molarity, molality –Two, to, too –Ensure, insure –Through, thorough, though

8 Rule #2: Follow Good Writing Principles Avoid wordiness and unfamiliar words Be precise in wording Use active voice whenever possible

9 Avoid Wordiness and Unfamiliar Words Focus on writing short sentences when possible –Example #1: It is, therefore, apparent from the data that we have shown in this study that there is a considerable change in the response we see in the animals that were treated with the much higher dose. –Example #2: We saw a 40% rise in response in the animals treated with 5 mg/ml than in those treated with 1 mg/ml. Use words that you and everyone else will know without having to find a dictionary –Eschew sesquipedalianism!

10 Be Precise Use terms that have meaning in the scientific world –Example 1: Production of Antibody A went up a little. –Example 2: Production of Antibody A increased by 5%. Dont use scientific terms in a non-scientific context –Significant means statistically significant –Avoid using significant in other contexts (e.g. large or important) Sex –Studies applicable to humans vs. men or women –Studies applicable to animals vs. males or females –Check the specific journal for instructions

11 Use Active Voice Sentences can be written in active or passive voice. –In active voice, the subject of the sentence carries out an action Example 1: Sarah threw the ball. –In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted UPON Example 2: The ball was thrown by Sarah. Benefits of using active voice –Greater clarity –Less likely to misplace modifiers –Shorter sentences –More interesting reading Example 3: Vasoconstriction and increased VSM cell [Ca2+] were elicited by the addition of KCl in both groups. Example 4: The addition of KCl elicited vasoconstriction and increased VSM cell [Ca2+] in both groups.

12 Rule #3: Use Appropriate Punctuation Semi-colons Colons Commas –Example 1: Karen, my sister will attend the wedding. –Example 2: Karen, my sister, will attend the wedding.

13 Rule #4: Check the Spelling Spelling errors distract your reviewers –Dont rely solely on your own proofreading –Use your word processors tools Add scientific words to your computers dictionary Be sure to spell them correctly when you add them –Spell checkers do NOT catch incorrect usage A direct assessment of alterations in calcium sensitivity has not been preformed. –Spell check one final time before submission

14 Rule #5: Use Multiple Proofreaders You reach a point where you can no longer proofread a manuscript. Especially important if… English is not your first language English grammar is not your strength Attention to details is not your strength

15 Rule #6: Dont Forget the Details Dont forget to define abbreviations the first time they are mentioned –Common terms may be the exception –Check journal guidelines for a list of exceptions –If in doubt, define All figures and tables should be mentioned in text All references cited in text should be in the reference list All references in the reference list should be cited in the text

16 Six Rules for Writing Rule #1: Know your grammar Rule #2: Follow good writing principles Rule #3: Use appropriate punctuation Rule #4: Check the spelling Rule #5: Use multiple proofreaders Rule #6: Dont forget the details

17 Make the Journal Staff Your Friends Do your best when writing the manuscript… The journal staff will do their best for you Editor –Easily determine the best reviewers Reviewers –Give real feedback to enhance the story –Not just grammar corrections Copy Editor –Copyedit without changing the meaning –Focus on important features

18 Whats the Result? A better article A better reputation A better professional experience

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