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How to write clear sentences

When we write scientific papers, we want to explain our study to the readers clearly and concisely. To do so, every sentence should deliver a piece of information that is necessary for the readers to understand the paper. Sentences that confuse the readers or do not contain any concrete information would not be useful and should be revised or deleted. Here we present 5 tips on how to write clear sentences to help readers understand your research.

1. Use words with specific meaning

We find that curcumin affected the expression of Bcl2 in the gastric cancer cell line MKN-1.

A short incision was closed with a simple interrupted suture, while a long incision was closed with a running suture.

The body weight of the moxibustion-treated group showed significant differences from that of the sham-treated group.

Reading these sentences, a reader will naturally ask the following questions: Was Bcl2 expression increased or decreased? How long an incision is short, and how long is long? Was the body weight higher or lower in the moxibustion-treated group? By simply changing a few words in the sentences, we can include these answers in the sentences. You could add new sentences to give these answers, but that just makes the paper unnecessarily long.

We find that curcumin upregulated the expression of Bcl2 in the gastric cancer cell line MKN-1.

A short incision (≤ 5 cm) was closed with a simple interrupted suture, while a long incision (> 5 cm) was closed with a running suture.

The body weight of the moxibustion-treated group was significantly higher than that of the sham-treated group.

2. Give details

The MAPK pathway plays an important role in pancreatic islet dysfunction, thus we tested in this study whether the MAPK pathway was affected by moxibustion treatment in the diabetic rats.

If this is the only sentence in the manuscript giving the rationale of examining the MAPK pathway, there is not enough information to convince a reader that it is worth investigating. What exactly is its role in islet dysfunction? Is it activated or deactivated in a dysfunctional islet? Does it exacerbate or help resolve islet dysfunction? Is there any connection between MAPK and moxibustion? Here we cannot just simply modify this sentence to include all the answers. We will need to write several sentences to describe in more detail why the MAPK pathway is a good candidate to study in this case. After that is done, this sentence probably will appear unnecessary and can be deleted.

3. Define new information

A region’s ecological carrying capacity is restricted by government policies, such as zoning policies, ERL, and allocation of environmental resources.

If ERL has not been defined earlier in the paper, a reader will stop here and wonder what it stands for. A good practice is to remember to always define an abbreviation the first time it is mentioned. In this case, however, even if this is written out in full as ecological red line, a reader outside of China may not be familiar with the term. It will be better to add a brief explanation of this term. Depending on the flow of the paper, this can be done somewhere before this sentence, in parentheses after the term, or right after this sentence.

4. Use parallel structure

If you have a list in a sentence, using parallel structure for the items can help readers understand the meaning. Here, when I say “parallel,” it is not only about the grammar, but the items in the list should all be the same type so that they are comparable.

Cement mortar specimens were analyzed for their micro characteristics (permeability, SEM, wave velocity, porosity, and CT scanning).

In this sentence, the list contains five items. They are all nouns, so grammatically, this is correct. However, permeability, wave velocity, and porosity are all micro characteristics, while SEM and CT scanning are methods, so these are not the same type and should not be put together. A simple rewrite can fix the problem.

Cement mortar specimens were analyzed for their micro characteristics (permeability, morphology, wave velocity, and porosity).

We can explain somewhere else in the paper that morphology was analyzed by SEM and CT scanning.

5. One idea at a time

As the buildings are difficult to construct, serving as a wind barrier, and the economic conditions in the village are relatively poor, the buildings are shorter than the regular traditional buildings in Taiwan.

In this sentence, the underlined part appears out of place. The rest of the sentence explains the difference between buildings in a specific village to regular buildings in the area, but “serving as a wind barrier” is about the function of the buildings, and is not part of the reason of the difference discussed in the sentence. Therefore these are two separate ideas and should be written in two separate sentences.

When you write your manuscript, use these 5 tips to help you write clear sentences, and your manuscript will be concise and easy to understand.

(Please retain the reference in reprint: http://www.letpub.com/index.php?page=author_education_how_to_write_clear_sentences)


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