Posted on November 11th, 2019 by Luis M Romero-Rodríguez – Translation: Erika-Lucia Gonzalez-Carrion
One of the main difficulties when writing a scientific article is to adapt our writing style – which is part of our identity – to the narrative styles of scientific journals. It is very common to find new researchers writing articles with endless paragraphs, composed by juxtaposed, coordinated and subordinate sentences, direct, indirect and circumstantial complements and, in addition, with semicolons (;) to separate ideas, painting with these signs -as if it were a canvas- their premium operas.
The grammar and the correct use of punctuation ensure a clear communication of ideas, in turn improving the structure of the arguments presented in the article, ergo ensuring their readability and understanding. We must not forget that an article has a pedagogical and persuasive purpose.
Simplicity tends to significantly improve the quality exposition of ideas
Of course, each area of knowledge is a world: It is not the same to write for a journal of literature or history (Arts and Humanities), than for journals of “hard” sciences, such as physics or mathematics. In the first we will probably find grandiloquent paragraphs and linguistic ornaments in a manuscript that can have more than 12 thousand words, while on the second case concise writing is more common, which goes directly to the problem, its solution and conclusions and in those that do not abound -for unnecessary- complex sentences with many complements. In short: subject, verb and complement.
In the case of Social Sciences, our editorial style is usually a hybrid in extension, structure (the most common IMRDC) and linguistic, because our sciences and disciplines force us to introduce the subject and justify it, review the state of the matter, explain the methods, to analyze the results and to expose the conclusions and discussions, all this by means of the use of our language, but also thinking about the possibility that the manuscript has later translation to English, whose writing is still more concrete.
Here are 5 keys to improve your scientific writing:
- Avoid excessively long paragraphs. If a paragraph has more than 7 lines, it can probably be separated into two or, otherwise, presents too many ideas.
- One paragraph per idea. Already in another post of School of Authors we had explained three keys to ensure enough density of concepts between the paragraphs and, in addition, linearity of ideas that should be between them.
- The semicolon. This punctuation mark sometimes becomes the “wild card” of the day and, the truth, is that it should be used the least. According to the RAE, the semicolon has only 4 uses.
- Avoid the “Frankestein” writing. We understand that many times we distribute the writing work, but there is nothing more complicated than maintaining the same logic when an article is made with 4, 6 and up to 8 hands. If we cannot avoid it, let us at least delegate the revision and grammar and stylistic correction of the text to an author.
- Read, read and reread. When we write something, we don’t usually read it carefully, perhaps due to overconfidence or saturation. However, the work of reading after writing is rather important in the same way that the writing of the text itself. A key to do it successfully is not checking it until after a few hours.