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Language Matters: Using Appropriate Expression to Set the Right Tone

Language Matters: Using Appropriate Expression to Set the Right Tone

In a previous post, we talked about the importance of avoiding verbiage and using overly long words for their own sake, to keep the expression in your paper clear, simple, and readable. While simple, concise expression is key to communicating your research clearly, it’s also important to use language that maintains the right tone for a scientific publication that will be read by a highly accomplished audience of researchers. Thus while it may be good to say “show” instead of “elucidate,” it’s still better to use “many” rather than “a lot.” In other words, we have to take care not to grade our language to the point that it may be a detriment to your paper being accepted, or diminish the reader’s confidence in your credibility and research.

First, avoid colloquialisms. These are fine in everyday speech but are too casual for scientific writing.

 Too casual  Good
 What's more  Furthermore, Additionally               
 A lot  Many/much
 Bad  Poor
 Like  Such as
 Do(an experiment)       Perform






Contractions are also inappropriate in formal writing.

 Too casual                      Good   
 Didn't  Did not                          
 Can't  Cannot




Finally, watch out for these imprecise expressions that add little or no meaning:

 Too casual  Good
 (X, Y, Z) and so on         ...such as X, Y, and Z            
 (X, Y, Z), etc.  ...such as X, Y, and Z




Other imprecise expressions that add little meaning are “very, quite, and rather”. When possible, use specific values or qualifiers such as “significantly” (if statistically or clinically significant only), “showed a strong trend”, or “2-fold increase”, for example.


Always consider your audience when writing and don't assume they all know the details of what you're talking about. Striking the right balance between precise and professional wording and conciseness can be difficult, but with practice you'll have manuscripts that express your work both clearly and credibly.


Language quality is among the top reasons for being rejected by a journal. To ensure the language in your manuscript is publication-ready you should have a native-English-speaking expert in your field edit for grammar, clarity, and accuracy of scientific expression.

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