The Critical Importance of a Strong Thesis Statement

An Key Editorial Suggestion for Emerging Academic Writers: A strong thesis statement, one that is not vague or unclear, will make your argumentation easier to follow. The stronger and more specific your thesis statement or research question, the easier it will be to write strong individual topic sentences for each paragraph. When the paragraphs make clear points that follow logically from [...]

By | May 28th, 2016|

Avoiding Orwellian Speech

"Language Can Corrupt Thought" George Orwell, in his essay “Politics and the English Language” provided a list of writing rules “one can rely on when instinct fails,” that is, when authors seek to use “language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.” i Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are [...]

By | May 6th, 2016|

Do Not Join Independent Clauses by a Comma

If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon. Stevenson's romances are entertaining; they are full of exciting adventures. It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark. It is of course equally correct to write the above [...]

By | March 12th, 2016|

What Editors Do — Typography

What Editors Do — The Em Dash One thing editors do is to fuss with dashes. A writer's use of dashes (hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes) is one of the typographical elements that "jump out" at editors. Dashes, if used incorrectly, can actually confuse readers (not just bother detail–oriented editors). A common mistake writers make is using a hyphen (–) where they should have [...]

By | December 2nd, 2015|

To “We” or Not to “We”–The First Person in Academic Writing

The problem: expressing your ideas in an academic setting Many of us have been taught not to use the first person, "I," "my," "we," "our" and so forth (and for that matter, the second person, "you"), when writing research papers. First person pronouns and verbs, we were told, suggest that an author may be too close to the subject matter [...]

By | October 7th, 2015|

Avoiding Sexist Pronouns

Gender-Neutrality: Singular Pronouns "They" & "Their" The problem: sexist pronouns Grammar problems can reflect tensions within society. Consider the following sentence from an imaginary advertisement: Ask your doctor if he recommends CuresItAll™ for you and your family. Fifty years ago, when relatively few women worked as physicians, such statements were commonplace. Now, of course, the assumption that a doctor will [...]

By | July 28th, 2015|

Writing Tip: Which or That?

A Writing Tip: That or Which The words "that" and "which" both perform a wide variety of tasks in the English language. Occasionally, their usage almost overlaps, and there arises one of the great mysteries of English grammar (or rather, one of the mysteries of American English grammar; our British cousins do not bother with the distinction discussed here). Here's an example of [...]

By | July 20th, 2015|

Readable Prose: Remove Needless Nouns

Nominalizations: "zombie nouns" You can sharpen your writing style and make your writing more readable by eliminating nominalizations. Nominalizations are unnecessary nouns, which can add wordiness to your writing and make it lifeless and indirect. Here's an example of a needless nominalization, based on one of our academic editor's edits of a text. Original text: For an adequate fish behaviour interpretation . . [...]

By | March 4th, 2015|

First Impressions: The Cover Letter

Best foot forward: the cover letter One of the last things that comes to mind when preparing manuscripts for submission is the cover letter, yet it is the first (and sometimes only) item read by the journal editor. The editor-in-chief or subject matter editor will often use your cover letter to determine if your manuscript is appropriate for their journal. [...]

By | February 23rd, 2015|

Tips for Writing a Conference Paper

Writing and editing a conference paper for oral presentation Have you ever attended academic conferences where the occasional presenter’s droning voice or convoluted syntactic constructions have made paying attention a real challenge? Perhaps you have even witnessed the following scene: hearing that time is up, the frazzled presenter begins leafing through a stack of unread pages and attempts to condense [...]

By | December 11th, 2014|