It’s difficult to find a book on scientific writing that doesn’t inveigh against weak verbs and nominalizations, and in previous posts, I’ve suggested ways to find them in your papers and eliminate them (here, here, and here). In this post, I want to point out another one: “served as,” as in
Metallic nickel served as a catalyst for the growth of carbon nanotubes. Continue reading Served as
The placement of adverbs—which modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs—can substantially change the meaning of a sentence. You’ve probably run across example sentences illustrating the importance of correctly placing the adverb “only”:
Only I drive red cars; no one else drives them.
I only drive red cars; I do not park them.
I drive only red cars; I do not drive green cars.
I drive red-only cars; I do not drive multicolored cars.
I drive red cars only; I do not drive red motorcycles.
Perhaps because “only” is so often used as an example in grammar books, many writers place it correctly. However, in the course of my scientific editing, I routinely encounter other misplaced adverbs; the usual culprits are “predominantly,” “mainly,” and “mostly.” Let’s look at some examples: Continue reading Adverb placement: Predominantly, mainly, mostly
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?
Sentences with two subjects separated by “and” can be ambiguous when the first subject contains a prepositional phrase. Here’s an example I ran across recently in a chemistry paper I was editing: Continue reading Miscues involving prepositional phrases
This week’s tip? Beware of illogical comparisons. When you use “in contrast with,” “compared with/to,” “like,” or “unlike,” make sure that the items you are comparing fall into the same category. Here’s an example of an illogical comparison:
In contrast to Figure 1, which shows the conventional process, no intermediate ion-pair is formed during the novel process shown in Figure 2.
In this sentence, the word order results in an illogical comparison between “Figure 1” and “intermediate ion-pair.” To revise, make sure that the “in contrast to” phrase is immediately followed by the second of the two items being compared:
In contrast to the conventional process (Fig. 1), the novel process shown in Fig. 2 does not involve formation of an intermediate ion-pair.
Continue reading Illogical comparisons