My Tips and Tricks

  • If you're ever editing and you're approaching a deadline, highlight the things that you know you can't fix right away and try to power through the rest of the document. Once you've made it the entire way through, the fix to a sentence will most likely be more clear. 

 

  • STOP using two spaces after a period. It especially messes up the look of justified paragraphs.

 

  • Sometimes things aren't misspelled, they're just discrepancies between British and American English (e.g., analog vs. analogue). Try to be consistent throughout a document with which spelling conventions are used.

 

  • Remove the phrase "in order to". It is commonly used in conversation, but in concise scientific writing, it is almost always unnecessary. (Of course, make sure the sentence stands without it.)

 

  • Many learn this the hard way, but if you're writing a scientific paper, build your EndNote/Mendeley/Papers library and cite as you write

 

  • If your school doesn't have a template for your dissertation, consider looking around for one that fits your specifications or making your own. Being familiar with the Styles pane with populate your Table of Contents for you and make your document WAY easier to navigate. (Here's the link to Duke's, for example.)

 

  • If you want to learn how to excel at technical scientific writing, get your hands on as many grants as possible. If not a hard copy, ask to read grants from any PI that will let you.

 

  • Make sure the word you're using is actually a verb! (e.g., You don't aliquot something, you'd divide it into 50 µL aliquots.)

 

  • Try to use as many concise verbs/action words as possible. 

    • Use: The builders agreed that this site was not conveniently located. 

    • Not: The builders reached an agreement that this site was not conveniently located. 

 

  • Then, using the nominalization in a following sentence would be appropriate to reorient the reader to something with which they are familiar.

  • The builders agreed that this site was not conveniently located. This agreement came after numerous contentious meetings with the local homeowner association. 

 

  • Passive voice is not inherently scientific. Use it judiciously, and be sure to check if your journal of interest has specifications regarding its use.

    • Nature: "Nature journals prefer authors to write in the active voice" (link