Writing Tip: Keep It Simple

Many authors writing scientific papers, especially non-native English-speaking authors, feel that they need to use complex words to make their papers sound more impressive. However, this is not the case. Editors of high-impact journals want to receive papers that are clearly written and can be easily understood by as wide an audience as possible. Technical terminology cannot be avoided, but it is important to try to convey your ideas clearly:

  • Begin your sentences with the most important idea
  • Use short sentences or phrases where possible
  • Start a new paragraph for a new idea or concept
  • Use simple words

This is also important because many journals place restrictions on word counts for submissions.

Let’s look at an example below of an unclear sentence and how to make it clearer:

Unclear version

We engage a neoteric continuance-varying catalytic model to tri-decade age-specific measles case reports.

This sentence is very complex:

‘Engage’ is quite a complicated word. It is not ‘wrong’, but could you choose a shorter, easier word? ‘Fit’ is a good substitute.

‘Neoteric’ is a complicated word also. It actually means ‘new’ or ‘novel’, and each of these options is much simpler and very commonly used in scientific writing.

‘Continuance varying’: ‘continuance’ refers to something which happens over a period of time, so it is much easier to say ‘time-varying’.

‘Tri-decade’: ‘tri-‘ means ‘three’, so it is actually easier for the reader to understand ‘three decades’.

So, let’s construct a better form of this sentence:

Clearer version

We fit a novel time-varying catalytic model to three decades of age-specific measles case reports

If you are unsure about the wording for your paper, we at Charlesworth Author Services can help make it clearer. Please contact us to find out more.


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