Scientists–Are you making this common writing mistake?

Perpetual motion with light bulbs, Idea concept backgroundScientists who can express their ideas clearly publish more papers, receive more recognition and get more funding.

Unfortunately, many scientists hinder their own progress by failing to write effectively.

Redundant sentences are a common flaw that can be easily removed. Go through your draft, sentence by sentence, and look for unnecessary repetitions of meaning. Redundant phrases are most likely to sneak into your prose when you are discussing:

  • Time. Phrases like “a duration of” and “a time interval of” can usually be removed if they are in the same sentence with a more specific description of time.
  • Quantities. Phrases like “the extent of “the quantity of” and a “total of” can be cut out without losing the meaning of the sentence.
  • Activities. If you see a phrase like “the extraction process” you can remove the word “process”.
  • Dimensions. Some dimension words are less meaningful than others, and can be removed from the sentence. For example, ‘8 by 8 feet in size,” “in a clockwise direction” and “parabolic in shape.”

Clear Technical Writing, by John A. Brogan, contains many more examples and exercises that will help you cut clutter from your writing.

If you’re editing your own document, I recommend starting from the back, and reading the sentences in reverse order. It makes it easier to catch more errors without getting caught up in the meaning the piece.