RUG: Writing with focus, precision, and concision Melody Montgomery
Today’s Session • Focus – Structure Your Writing. • Precision – Unravel Nouns. • Concision – Activate Sentences. Avoid Redundancy. • Revision – Writing IS re-writing.
Focus • Starting the Writing Process • Read the instructions carefully. • Brainstorm, outline, and diagram ideas. • Expand outline into sentences, and link ideas with transitions. • Work on daily (plan for 4-6 months of writing and preparation for grant proposals). • Plan for editing and submission time. • Review throughout. • Write and re-write: get feedback, edit, and proofread. • Do not worry about your first draft(s).
Focus Making Your Ideas Clear • Tie paragraphs together to tell a story. • Use transition words to link ideas. • Define terms, even if you think they are known. • Avoid long sentences (keep each at 15-20 words). • Breakdown ideas. • Keep the subject close to the verb. • Avoid using the same words over and over.
Focus Structure of a paragraph
Focus Structure of a paragraph
Focus Structure of a paragraph
Focus • Use transition words to link ideas.
Focus For continuing a common line of reasoning consequently, furthermore, additionally, also, To change line of reasoning however, on the other hand, but, yet, nevertheless, despite Contrast and Comparison contrast, conversely, instead, likewise, on one hand, similarly Emphasisabove all, chiefly, with attention to, especially, particularly, singularly Exemplifyingchiefly, especially, for instance, in particular, markedly, namely, including Exceptionaside from, barring, beside, except, excepting, excluding, exclusive of, save Transitions
Focus Consequence accordingly, as a result, consequently, for this reason, hence Generalizingas a rule, as usual, for the most part, generally, usually Illustrationfor example, for instance, for one thing, as an illustration, as an example, Similaritycomparatively, coupled with, correspondingly, identically, likewise, similar Restatementin essence, in other words, namely, that is, that is to say, in short, in brief Sequenceat first, first of all, to begin with, in the first place, at the same time, for now, Transitions cond.
Focus • Tell a clear and interesting story that emphasizes your focus. Structure sentences to stress your key points.
Focus Stress Position • Subject = Old Information • Verb = Action • Stress Position = New Information • Examples: • Although the treatment is highly effective, it has significant side effects. • Although the treatment has significant side effects, it is highly effective.
Expletive constructions Focus • Avoid expletive constructions • They begin with there are/isor it is • Be careful when using it/they/etc. Is it clear what it is referring to?
Precision Be cautious when using long strings of nouns; can form multiple meanings. Unraveling: Properly use hyphens. Read the phrase backwards. Use prepositions to break into modifying units. Long Compound Noun Strings or “Noun Stacks”
Precision Unraveling Noun Strings/Noun Stacks • neuron-specific autophagy-deficient mice • mice deficient in neuron-specific autophagy • monocyte secreted HIV-related stimuli • HIV-related stimuli secreted by monocytes • LC-MS/MS-defined target concentrations • target concentrations defined by LC-MS/MS
Precision Use Parallel Verb Tense We will be testing our hypothesis usinginnovative methods toexaminethe data after we have analyzed it quantitatively. Using innovative methods, we will thoroughly test our hypothesis, examine the data, and quantitatively analyze our results.
Precision Magnitude v. Elevation higher = elevation increased = more Logic v. Time although, but, whereas = logic since, as = time because = logic subsequently = time consequently = logic
Precision Singular v. Plural phenomena = plural phenomenon = singular data = plural datum = singular criteria = plural criterion = singular Affect and Effect affect = verb effect = noun Compliment and Complement Compliment = Positive Statement Complement = Adds to
Precision Capitalizing Job Titles General Rule: Capitalize title when it precedes the name, and do not capitalize the title if it follows the name. Helpful link: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/capitals.htm
Precision Comma Usage Can use in place of parentheses. Cytokines (small cell-signaling protein molecules) pair to these receptors. Cytokines, which are small cell-signaling protein molecules, pair to these … Use before ‘which’ Use before conjunction separating two complete statements. Note: ‘however’ is not a connection Use after transition words (e.g., Furthermore, Next,) Use to separate nouns (DNA, RNA, and tRNA) Serial comma: In American English the serial comma is standard in most non-journalistic writing and follows the Chicago Manual of Style.
Precision • Which & That • Whichfollows a comma and introduces non-essential clauses • The transmembrane protein CD22, which is a negative regulator of cellular signaling … • Thatdoes not follow commas. Introduces essential clauses • By examining the pathway that negatively regulates cellular signaling, … • i.e. & e.g. • i.e. = id est. That is. • Nucleic acids (i.e., DNA and RNA) • e.g. = exempli grati. For example. • Macromolecules (e.g., nucleic acids)
Precision Hyphen: Punctuation RulesUsed for compound noun phrases Use between nouns of equal importance (eye-opener) Use between two numbers spelled out (e.g., twenty-four) Use to link two nouns or words that modify another noun (e.g., real-time experiment, well-run practices) Note, modifiers ending in ‘ly’ are not typically hyphenated.
Revision Hyphens: Clarify Longer Clauses Three-hundred-year-old trees: An indeterminate number of trees that are 300 years old. Three hundred-year-old trees: Three trees that are 100 years old. Three-hundred year-old trees: 300 trees that are one year old. Disease causing poor nutrition: A disease that causes poor nutrition Disease-causing poor nutrition: Poor nutrition that causes disease Multiple extra cellular signals: Many additional cellular signals Multiple extra-cellular signals: Many signals that are outside the cell Cancer causing mutagenesis: Cancer that causes mutagenesis Cancer-causing mutagenesis: Mutagenesis that causes cancer
Concision Eliminating Wordiness Knows Takes Indicate Suggest If Is aware of/has knowledge of … Is taking … Are indicative of … Are suggestive of … In the event …
Concision Avoiding Redundancy • Past History • Final outcome • Repeat again • Actual facts • Refer back • Absolutely essential • Basic fundamentals • Close proximity • Desirable benefits • Entirely eliminate • Still persists • http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/redundancies.htm
Concision Phrases that You Can Omit • Has a tendency to In the event that • In the process of • All things considered • Has the ability to • As far as __ is concerned • In light of the fact that • By means of • For all intents and purposes • It seems that • In the nature of • At the same time as
Concision Keep subject and verb close. Our theory, which was adopted using the basic principles of human healthcare ethics that contains four principles, is a grounded theory approach. Our grounded theory approach adopts the four basic principles of human of healthcare ethics. Use active verbs and activate sentences. We will develop a cell line - rather than “a cell line will be developed” The ICP data show - rather than “It can be seen from the ICP data…” Let the Subject Do the Work
Concision Examples: accelerate, compile, compose, delineate, describe, detect, determine, develop, elevate, evaluate, expand, formulate, generate, hypothesize, illustrate, implement, induce, inflict, instigate, interpret, isolate, maintain, manipulate, perform, placate, predict, prepare, prescribe, produce, promote, prompt, propel, protect, reduce, repair, research, support, synthesize, target, test, transfer, undertake, utilize, yield … Examples of active verbs: http://www.cvisual.com/film-techniques/writer-action-verb-list.pdf Use Strong Action Words
Concision Reduce Prepositions • Original: An understanding of these recurring cytogenetic changes has led to the molecular dissectionof specific chromosomal regions and has resulted in the isolation and cloningof various proto-oncogenes • Revision: Because we better understand these recurring cytogenetic changes, specific chromosomal regions have been molecularly dissected resulting in isolation and cloning of various proto-oncogenes.
Concision Exercise: Converting Passive to Active Voice • Passive Sentence: • (Noun) (Verb phrase) By (Noun) • The true subject is at the end • Find the true subject. • Find the verb. • Organize into subject-verb structure.
Concision Converting Passive to Active Voice • The ABC pathway is blocked by elevating the expression of the XYZ protein. • Increased expression of the XYZ protein blocks the ABC pathway.
Concision Converting Passive to Active Voice • There were a number of questions regarding the experimental design and several concerns werepointed out by the group members. • The group members raised a number of questions and some concerns regarding the experimental design.
Concision Avoid Weak Qualifiers If, Try, Hope, May, Might, Should, Could, Believe, Possibly use EXPECT.
Revision Before Revised • At this point in time, we • cannot ascertain the reason • as to why such phenomena • occur. • In light of the fact that • certification is required, we • consider it irrelevant to inquire • regarding this aspect of • one’s background given that • It has been addressed in the • screening process. • It is unknown why such phenomena occur. • Because the screening process requires proof of certification, it is not necessary to collect this information.
Revision Edit and proofread in blocks of time. Allow your self to step away and look at fresh. Try changing the look and formatting of your document. Use a highlighter to mark the changes that you made for printed edits. Create a timeline – schedule time to write/practice Editing and Proofreading Tips
Revision Read out loud. Replace/unravel long noun phrases. Is your train of thought clear (correct modifiers and prepositions)? Check sentence variety (impact – short sentence). Check that you do not use the same words and phrases over and over (thesaurus.com). Precise/unambiguous word choices. Checklist
Review… • Structuring your writing • Positions of emphasis • Let the subjects do the work • Paragraph organization • Activating verbs • Use active voice • Strong verbs • Avoid nominalization • Eliminating wordiness • Prune the redundant • Reduce weak qualifiers • Avoid clichés and empty generalities
Email-address: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 402.559.4132 http://www.unmc.edu/research_editorial.htm