Writing Wednesdays

Tips to make your writing worK FOR You.


Written numbers vs. numerals.
-Write out numbers smaller than 10 and numerals for numbers 10 and above.
-When you have both large and small numbers, use numerals for all.
-Use numerals for units of measure, decimals, and percentages, even those below 10.

Use parentheses to enclose information that is descriptive but not necessary to the sentence. Use brackets for extra information already in parentheses. The sentence must still make sense if you delete the words inside the parentheses
Tim (a scientist [a microbiologist]) will attend the conference - CORRECT

A compound adjective is two or more words working together to describe a noun. Use hyphens for compound adjectives.
The 60-year-old patient is HIV+ - CORRECT
A last-minute change to the protocol is necessary - CORRECT

To advance science and health literacy it is important that medical and scientific writers use plain language and clear communication techniques.

When comparing three or more items, use “most” and “-est”. “More” and “-er” are for comparing only two items.

Do not use a hyphen between an adverb and an adjective.
Ann was a highly-motivated young scientist – INCORRECT
Ann was a highly motivated young scientist – CORRECT

Effect vs. Affect
“Effect” can be a verb meaning “to cause, to bring about or a noun meaning “result.”

“Affect” can be a verb meaning “to alter, to change” and in very rare cases it can be a noun meaning “feelings, mood.”

A comma cannot sufficiently join two complete sentences, instead, use one of the three techniques below.
-a period and a capital letter
-a semicolon
-a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, for, nor, or, but, yet, so)

At the end of a sentence, use an ellipsis AND the ending punctuation.
At that moment, she realized, she had no clue....
Do you care at all...?

Use an ellipsis to show a pause in thought.
I’m wondering … how will you announce the changes in lab procedures?
Her PI agreed … with a few suggestions.

Cut wordy phrases such as “due to the fact that” and “on account of” to limit your word count and make sentences easier to read.
Several safety procedures were violated by the lab - WORDY
The lab violated several safety procedures - CONCISE

Use an ellipsis to indicate omission of words from a quote but be sure that the ellipsis does not change the quote's meaning.

Use “then” to refer to time and “than” to make comparisons.
We read the protocol and then started the experiment.
Susan was more ready for the exam than Tom.

Use a hyphen when:
-the prefix precedes a capitalized word (pre-World War II, sub-Saharan Africa)
-the spelling of the combined word is difficult to read ("reenter" vs "re-enter")
-the lack of a hyphen creates ambiguity (re-cover [to put on a new cover] vs recover [return to normal state])

Only capitalize “federal” or “state” if they are part of the name of an organization.
Twenty state health departments joined the coalition.
The Georgia State Health Department joined the coalition.

"Used to" is the correct way to indicate past repetitive action. 
I use to search for new papers on the topic daily - INCORRECT
I used to search for new papers on the topic daily - CORRECT

Avoid unnecessary introductory and prepositional phrases.
For most of our students, this is a helpful funding source that they use often - OKAY
Most of our students use this helpful funding source often - BETTER

The phrase "on accident" is grammatically incorrect. "By accident" or "accidentally" are the correct ways to indicate something not done on purpose. 

Only capitalize titles when they are directly before a person’s name.
Anne Smith is the new agency liaison.
Agency Liaison Anne Smith just started.

“And” is a conjunction. Conjunctions are used to connect items in a list. “As well as” is NOT a conjunction  so it cannot connect items in a list.
I like the colors blue, green, as well as red - INCORRECT
I like the colors blue, green, and red - CORRECT

Bi- can mean “every two” or “twice.” When using the prefix bi, give the reader clues about which meaning you intend.

Double spacing between sentences is usually unnecessary. Unless explicitly instructed to double space between sentences, use one space after a period.

Avoid passive voice which can conceal the verb in the sentence. 
The projects were funded by NIH - INCORRECT
NIH funded the projects - CORRECT

Avoid common redundancies like "added bonus", "advance planning", or  "join together".
We will evaluate each and every test - INCORRECT
We will evaluate each test - CORRECT

"Who" and "that" are NOT interchangeable. Use "who" to refer to people and "that" (and "which") to refer to everything else.
We have statistics for the children that were in group A - INCORRECT
We have statistics for the children who were in group A - CORRECT

"Due to" means the result of or resulting from. "Because of" means as a result of.
Ann’s headache was due to the loud music.
Because of loud music, Ann had a headache.

Not using an oxford comma can cause misunderstandings.Place the Oxford comma before the coordinating conjunction (usually "and" or "or") in a list of three or more items.
"I love my teachers, Chemistry and Biology" indicates an affinity for your teachers named Chemistry and Biology.
"I love my teachers, Chemistry, and Biology" indicates an affinity for your teachers as well as your Chemistry and Biology courses.

Emigrate is to leave one's home county. Immigrate is to come into another country to live permanently.
"Ann emigrated from Spain as a child" means she left Spain.
"Ann immigrated to the United States" means she entered into the US.