Category Archives: Scientific Style

Typographical conventions for mathematics

In the scientific manuscripts I edit, certain deviations from the generally accepted typographical conventions for mathematical text crop up frequently enough that I thought I would discuss a few of them in this post. First, let’s look at some of the basic conventions: Continue reading Typographical conventions for mathematics

Need to shorten your paper?

Recently, I was asked to help an author shorten a paper by 10% to meet the word-count requirements of the target journal. The paper was already quite short and contained little extraneous information. However, by using the techniques illustrated here with example sentences, I accomplished the task without eliminating anything important. Consider the following sentences: Continue reading Need to shorten your paper?

Judicious consistency

In science writing—as opposed to, say, literary criticism or cultural studies—a premium is placed on precise, clear language. Unambiguous communication of information is in fact the fundamental goal of science writing. One way to achieve this goal is to consistently use the most precise language possible: choose a precise word or phrase and use it consistently. Consider the following (simplified) sentences taken from the abstract, introduction, discussion, and conclusion of a chemistry paper:

We investigated the antiatherogenic properties of the compound.

We investigated the antiatherosclerotic properties of the compound.

We investigated the antiatherosclerosis activity of the compound.

We investigated the atherosclerosis-preventing activity of the compound.

Continue reading Judicious consistency

Be kind to newbies

In addition to being an editor, I’m also a knitter, and I occasionally teach knitting and write knitting patterns. When I first started writing patterns, I was surprised by the ways that my students could misinterpret instructions that seemed perfectly clear to me, and I quickly learned to word my instructions as clearly and precisely as possible. The same could be said of the Materials and Methods section of a scientific paper. Continue reading Be kind to newbies

Citing figures in text

Scientific Style and Format: The Manual for Authors Editors, and Publishers (7th ed, pp. 586) recommends that text citations of figures be parenthetical. If your target journal follows this style guide, you’ll want to make a separate pass through your manuscript to check your figure citations and revise if necessary. Let’s look at some before-and-after examples: Continue reading Citing figures in text