The Dos and Don’ts of Scientific Writing

My list of helpful writing rules for scientific articles. Also available as PDF Version.

Do write in active voice.
Don’t let words be written. It was found to result in confusion about by whom actions have been caused.

Do use simple and common words. Your goal is to inform, not to impress.
Don’t engender flowery or compounded character constructions to disguise incertitude.

Do use positive forms and opposites to avoid negative forms.
Don’t use non-positive forms and inverted anti-counter-forms when not unavoidable.

Do make every word count. Split long sentences to increase readability.
Don’t try to say something in a way that seems to formulate a simple statement with a lot more words than what would actually have been necessary to explain it.
Don’t put individual statements, even if they belong together, in one sentence – especially not in subclauses and in between dashes – or using conjunctions and try to connect them, because a mixture of thoughts (e.g. by reading additional statements) is difficult to follow; even if you want to.

Do make use of prepositions in between words of a sentence in order to avoid a cluster of nouns.
Don’t skip a sentence's inter-word prepositions ensuring noun cluster avoidance.

Do use a clear sentence structure.
Don’t use prepositions to end your sentences with.
Don’t use adverbs to accidentally or intensionally split infinitives.
Don’t forget to make a comparison if you use more comparatives.

Do skip unnecessary phrases.
Don’t use “it is clear”, “this means that”, “and so on” or something like that.
On the other hand, don’t overuse introductory phrases such as “however” or “therefore”. Additionally, be consistent and don’t break clear patterns.
Don’t you think that rhetorical questions are useless as well?

Do name things explicitly and repeat the names, even if you have to repeat names multiple times.
Don’t write about it because it is hard to know what it is. This is also true for this.
Don’t use abbr. or TLAs without explaining them.
Don’t use several synonyms or similar terms or different words with the same meaning.

Do write precisely about specific facts and figures in 2 out of 3 sentences.
Don’t state quantities with 2.9931 more significant figures than their accuracy.
Don’t use quite vague quantifiers, such as “very”, “some”, “often”, “many”, or “most” too often.
Don’t generalize statements about information in writings.

Do write cautiously about your conclusions as they could be wrong or incomplete.
Don’t always use all absolute quantifiers because nothing is ever purely binary.
Don’t use an insane amount of exaggeration, it is a billion times worse!!!

Don’t reverse the order and assume knowledge, which means that statements are explained later, for example, in subclauses. Furthermore, only one argument should be delivered or described in a paragraph. Therefore, introductory phrases are often used to make sentences look related. However, this text still does not flow.
Do write text that flows. You create flow by beginning sentences with information the reader already knows. New information should be added at the end of a sentence to deliver your argument step-by-step. Such a sentence structure will smoothly guide the reader through an entire paragraph without using introductory phrases.

References

  1. Frank L. Visco, “How To Write Good”, Writers' digest, Jun. 1986

  2. William Safire, “On Language”, The New York Times, 1979