Writing in Science: Practical Tips Academic Writing Science Communication
Practical Tips: Sentence Structure



article use

British vs American


compare to/with


dates & numbers

dangling participle

eponymic terms


-ic vs –ical



like vs such as



faulty parallelism

passive voice


sentence structure


spell check
split infinitives


that vs which

unusual plurals


word confusion

A sentence must make sense!
One idea, one sentence
link to ppt

“Communication of scientific results is accomplished mainly by the written word.”
Steve Aaronson, editor of ISI Press Digest. Style in Scientific Writing. 1977

“The failure to recognize a brilliant person is only partly due to the stupidity or stubbornness of the scientific community; it is also partly his or her own fault.”
John Rader Platt

“The best scientific writing is characterized by brevity, clarity and precision.”
Steve Aaronson.

 “It is impossible to dissociate language from science or science from language, because every natural science always involves three things: the sequence of phenomena on which the science is based; the abstract concepts which call these phenomena to mind; and the words in which the concepts are expressed. To call forth a concept a word is needed; to portray a phenomenon, a concept is needed. All three mirror one and the same reality.”
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, 1789

“It does not matter how pleased an author might be to have converted all the right data into sentences and paragraphs; it matters only whether a large majority of the reading audience accurately perceives what the author had in mind.”
George Gopen and Judith Swan. The Craft of Scientific Writing. 1996

“Science is built up with facts, as a house is with stones, but a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.”
Jules Henri Poincare
“Style is the architect.”
Steve Aaronson.

“Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.”
Jonathan Swift. 1720 (Gulliver’s Travels)

“In science writing the best style is transparent; the reader sees through the words to the underlying phenomena and concepts.”
Steve Aaronson.

A writer’s style is an important part of what he or she says. (paraphrased)
Marin Robbins

“The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”
Albert Einstein

“Style is what gives meaning to thoughts.”
Steve Aaronson.

TIPS for writing effective, strong sentences

  • Make the subject clear.
  • Keep the subject close to the verb.
  • Choose verbs with care; make them vigorous.
  • Set context but avoid jargon.
  • Remove redundancy.
  • Remember that less is more.
  • Vary the structure.


Baldwin C. Part 1: WORD CHOICE & SENTENCE STRUCTURE. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] Nuts & Bolts of Scientific Writing. Academic Pediatric Association. © 2009. Available from: http://www.academicpeds.org/espauthoring/page_03.htm

Daily S. Writing Strong Sentences. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] Quinnipiac University, School of Law, USA. Available from: http://faculty.quinnipiac.edu/law/dailey/Writing%20Strong%20Sentences_files/frame.htm

Grammar Checker. Sentence Structure In Scientific Writing. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] Grammarsoftware.com  Available from: http://www.grammarsoftware.com/blog/sentence-structure-scientific-writing/

Kelley N. Sentence Structure of Technical Writing. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies MIT USA @ MIT 2006

Lynch J. Guide to Grammar and Style. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] Rutgers University. Available from:  http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/

Meiklejohn K. Writing about Physics. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] University of Toronto, Canada. Available from: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/physics

Monash University, Australia. CALT Learning Support. Writing good sentences. [Internet accessed 16.05.2011] © 2011 Monash University, Australia.  Available from: http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/index.xml

Purdue University. Sentence Structure. [Internet accessed 10.05.2011] Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA.  Available from:  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/exercises/5/

O’Brien E. Sentence Structure. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] Grammar Revolution. © 2009-2011 Available from: http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com/sentence-structure.html

Scitext. Cambridge. Principles of Science Writing: Sentence Construction. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] © 2011 Available from:  http://www.scitext.com/writing.php

Strunk W., White E.B. The Elements of Style. 4th Ed. Allyn & Bacon, USA © 2000 Now available on the Internet: http://www.bartleby.com/141/

University of North Carolina. The Writing Center: Sentence Structure. [Internet accessed 22.05.2011] University of North Carolina, NC, USA. Available from: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/sciences.html

Questions? Suggestions? contact: elinor.bartle<at>uib.no