Wright good: its important. Twenty quick tips to help you out!

It is almost the end of the academic term. This means a LOT of students are busy writing term papers. This brings up the topic for this post: quick tips to improve your writing. Note: I do not claim to be an excellent writer, nor an expert on writing. I make a lot of mistakes, and if you have been following my blog, you undoubtedly noticed these (sorry!). I do, however, read many student papers, theses, manuscripts, research proposals, etc. With experience, you tend to develop an eye for common mistakes.

The mistakes I am referring to are easy to fix and I encourage you to go over this list in some detail. Writing is a skill that needs to be practiced and continually improved. One problem, however, is that we tend to have a lot of bad writing habits, and bad habits are hard to shake.

Below you will find a list of some of the most common scientific writing mistakes (thanks to David Bird, a colleague in my Department, for passing along his list, which formed the basis for this one). These are in no particular order because they all matter, equally! This is also a list that is far from complete – please comment and add your favourite ones.

Here is the list:

1) Know the difference between its and it’s
2) Know the difference between effect and affect
3) Incorrect use of “which” and “that” (I have trouble with this one!)
4) Split infinitives (Star Trek was incorrect – it should be “To go boldly…” instead of “To boldly go…”
5)  Use metric measurements (consistently)
Six) Consistent and proper use of numbers
7) Always use italics on Latin words
8) e.g., means “for example” and i.e., means “that is to say” (and if you use e.g. you do not need etc. at the end of your list)
9) “data” are plural
10) Watch for missing references either in the text or in the citation list
11) Inconsistent referencing style (follow the style guidelines)
12) Overuse of the word “that”, e.g. it is interesting that, studies showed that, etc.; generally most words before “that” can be eliminated
13) Beginning sentences with “There are…” (always write in the active tense)
14) Inclusion of unnecessary spacing, weird fonts, etc
15) Be consistent with your tenses
16) It is “First,…Second…..” not “Firstly,….., Secondly…..”
17) Either use U.S. (e.g. color) or British (e.g. colour) spellings, and be consistent about it
18) Be careful with jargon and acronyms: some are acceptable (e.g., DNA), but others are too discipline-specific (e.g., NMDS)
19) Don’t use contractions. Or, rather, “do not” use contractions in scientific writing
20) Watch out for run on sentences because they tend to annoy the heck out of a lot of readers and this can have the result of people feeling rather frustrated or perhaps bored when they try to distill the important information contained within your essay or final written report.

Without a doubt, the lack of consistency is the most common error of all.

Why does all this matter? I think you know the answer:

The affect of gammar and writing style that are incorrect is that it make you looks stupid and its a competitive world out their so you’d better work on being the bestest which you can.


3 thoughts on “Wright good: its important. Twenty quick tips to help you out!

  1. Pingback: Ten tips when asking for a letter of recommendation | Arthropod Ecology

  2. Pingback: Why emails must be well-written and error-free | Arthropod Ecology

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