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There is somewhat of an art to writing a
manuscripts, and we all have slightly different styles.
However, regardless of your style and habits the following
aims are desirable.
BE CONCISE. Don’t use 6 words to say something that could be
said in 2 words.
BE DIRECT. Use direct language as much as possible.
MINIMIZE REPETITION. It is a drain on the reader to re-read
the introductory rationale in the methods before the
methods, and then to re-read the methods in the results
before the results, and then to re-read the detailed results
in the discussion. Referring back to things already
presented should be as brief as possible.
For example, assume the following paragraph is in your rough
draft Results section:
“Western blot experiments using 12% agarose gels
with EtBr and monoclonal antibody against protein X at a
dilution of 1:100 were conducted to assess the affects of
the drug Q on protein X because too much protein X has
serious health effects and the results showed that the
expression of protein X was increased by a highly
significant difference in the animals injected via i.p. with
drug Q at a concentration of 10 mg/kg compared with the
expression of protein X of the animals injected only with
PBS. The effect is showed in Figure 2 and the p value of the
comparison was less than .001. These results provide a clear
demonstration that drug Q may be an effective treatment for
Too Much X Disease”
The above paragraph could be made drastically more concise
and direct, as shown below.
“As shown in Figure 2, Western blot analysis
revealed that drug Q treatment (10 mg/kg, i.p.) increased
protein X levels (P < .001 vs. PBS controls).”
1. Background for health risks of protein X was covered in
2. Western blot procedure was described in Methods.
3. Get straight to the point.
4. Once controls are described in methods, they can be
referred to by name only from there forward.
5. You don’t need to say highly significant AND give p
6. Results should be pure- give the reader a chance to
absorb the data, before you tell them what to think.
7. Save conclusions for discussion.
(1) Watch for misuse of articles (the, a, an).
(2) Only use the word of when necessary. For example, it is
almost always better to say 'gene Q expression' than
'expression of gene Q'. An exception would be, if you are
including a phrase immediately after that describes gene Q
[...gene Q, an oncogene, was first described...]
(3) Limited vocabulary (i.e., try to avoid repeatedly saying
the word 'different', though in many cases it would be
better to say 'several', 'many' or 'various', depending on
the sentence; or they may say 'smaller' when they should say
(4) There may be very long sentences that need to be broken
into 2 or 3 shorter sentences. Similarly you may need to
find a good spot to break a very long paragraph into 2.
(5) Be mindful of flow and transitions between sentences.
Avoid using the pet phrase repeatedly, such as "On the other
hand", when in many cases it would make more sense to say
Whereas, Meanwhile, Moreover, By contrast, In addition,
However, Although, etc.
(6) Avoid unnecessarily repeating information.
(7) Watch for overuse pronouns. Your reader should not have
to do detective work to figure out the subject to which you
are referring back.
(8) Watch for inconsistency of abbreviations. Abbreviations
should be defined with first use in abstract and with first
use in main body; once provided abbreviations should be used
- Proper + consistent use of SI units (s, min, h, d; ml; g;
- There should be spaces between numbers and units (5 mg,
five milligrams). However symbols can be right next to
number (50%, 4°C).
- At beginning of a sentence, numbers and units should be
spelled out: “Ten liters of water…”
- Formatting should be consistent. Only English fonts should
be used (i.e. no Simsum)