Practical science editing making good better istic conference august 28 2007 by chad walker
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Practical Science Editing : Making “Good” Better 科学编辑:使文章“好”上加好 ISTIC Conference August 28, 2007 by Chad Walker ( 王可杰 ) ( 理文编辑总编辑 ). Writing in General ( 写作总则 ). The Better You Can Write English, the Better You Can Edit It ( 英文写的好则编的更好 ). Words ( 用词 ). Commonly Confused and Misused Words

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Practical science editing making good better istic conference august 28 2007 by chad walker

Practical Science Editing:Making “Good” Better科学编辑:使文章“好”上加好ISTIC ConferenceAugust 28, 2007by Chad Walker (王可杰)(理文编辑总编辑)

Writing in general

Writing in General(写作总则)

The Better You Can Write English, the Better You Can Edit It




Commonly Confused and Misused Words


Articles a an vs the
Articles a/an vs. the

  • “a/an”: used when the noun can exist in more than one form or asmore than one case


    “A new species of Escherichia was identified.”

    (other species also exist)


  • “the”: used when no more than one instance exists or is likely to exist in the future


    “The organism responsible for the outbreak was Escherichia coli.”

    Experience using and reading them is the key!


2 affect effect and impact
2. affect/effect (and impact)

  • “effect” as a noun is the “result of some action.”

    ( “effect”作为名词时,表示“行为的结果”)

  • “affect” as a verb is “to influence”.

  • ( “affect ”作为动词时,意思为“影响”)


  • “effect” as a verb is to “bring about a change.”

    ( “effect” 作为动词时,意思为“引起变化”)

  • “affect” as a noun is the feeling or emotion caused by somebody‘s demeanor, action, or speech.

    (“affect” 作为名词时,意思为由于某人行为举止或语言引起的感受或情绪)

    •“impact” should be used only to describe “striking of one body against another” and should not be used as “affect”.

    ( “impact” 只用于描述“一件事对另一件事”产生的冲击,不能作为“affect”使用)

2 affect effect and impact1
2. affect/effect (and impact)

“Ingesting massive doses of ascorbic acid

may affect his recovery.”

(influence the recovery in some way)

“Ingesting massive doses of ascorbic acid

may effect his recovery.”

(produce/cause the recovery)

Luckily, the medicine did not adversely affect the patient.

Many scientists believe that global warming is the effectof greenhouse-gas emissions.


3 because as since
3. because/as/since

  • “as” used only in temporal, not causal, sense.

    (“as” 仅用于表示时间,而不是因果关系)

    “As we were completing the paper,

    new evidence came to light.”

  • “because” used to show causal action.

    (“because” 表示因果关系)

    “Five participants could not complete the follow up questionnaire

    because they had moved out of the target district.”

  • “since” used to show temporal relation.

    (“since” 表示时间关系)

    "Sincewe completed the study, there have been 3 additional outbreaks."

4 because of due to
4. because of/due to

  • “due to” = adjective + preposition, meaning “attributable to”

    (“due to”=形容词+介词,意为“归因于……”)

    "The problem was due to mechanical failure."

  • “because of” = conjunction + preposition, meaning “as a result of” or “owing to”

    (“because of”=连词+介词,意为“因为/由于”)

    “The problem occurred because of mechanical failure.”

    *Tip: Use “attributable to” and “as a result of” to determine thecorrect one.

    (使用过程中,可以借助“attributable to” 和“as a result of”帮助判断。)

5 comparable similar and same
5. comparable/similar (and same)

  • “comparable”: adjective indicating an item lending itself to comparison with a similar term.


    “Because the methods are different, the statistics are not comparable.”

  • “similar”: adjective indicating likeness


    "The mortality rates in Sweden and Chile are similar."

5 comparable similar and same1
5. comparable/similar (and same)

*Tip: “Same” is sometimes mistakenly used when “similar” is the correct word. “Same” means exactly the same, or “identical,” which is not often the case when comparing scientific results, especially when comparing the results of two different studies. 

(“Same” 有时会与“similar”混淆。“Same” 指完全一样,或“identical”,通常不用于科研结果的比较, 特别是两项不同研究的比较)

6 compose comprise constitute
6. compose/comprise/constitute

  • “compose”

    *1) active verb meaning to form, to make up a single object, to go together.


    “Twenty-three provinces compose the People’s Republic of China.”

    *2) passive verb meaning the same as “comprise”

    (被动语态时,意思同 “comprise”)

    “The People’s Republic of China iscomposedof 23 provinces .”

  • “comprise” (verb) to include, contain, be made up of


    “The People’s Republic of Chinacomprises23 provinces.”

  • “constitute” means the same as “compose.”


7 currently presently at present and now
7. currently/presently/at present (and "now")

  • “currently” (preferred) and “at present” mean “now.”

    (“currently”和“at present”都表示现在的意思,但更推荐使用“currently”)

    “There are currently no available studies on Han Chinese populations.”

  • “presently” means “soon”, “shortly”, “in the near future.”

    ( “presently”表示很快,不久的将来)

    “Presently, we will go to the Forbidden City

    *Tip: “Now” is often mistakenly used in manuscripts when “currently” or “at present” is better.

    (最好使用“currently” 或“at present”,“Now”经常被错误使用 )

8 demonstrate exhibit reveal show
8. demonstrate/exhibit/reveal/show

  • “demonstrate” should be used only for deliberate action intended to illustrate an action or procedure


    “The technician demonstrated how to operate the pH meter.”

  • “exhibit” is used for deliberate action to make visible.


    "He exhibited the mineral specimens at the last congress."

    *NOT used to mean passively carrying something.


    ×"The patient exhibited a rash" ○ "The patient had a rash.”

8 demonstrate exhibit reveal show1
8. demonstrate/exhibit/reveal/show

“reveal” is an action to make visible what has been hidden. It is not a synonym for “report.” (显示原本隐藏的事物,但并非“report”的同义词)

“The X-rayrevealeda tumor in the lower part of the stomach.”

*Tip: Non-living things cannot “demonstrate” anything; sentences like “The data demonstrated that...” should be avoided

(“demonstrate” 的主语应该是生命体,像 “The data demonstrated that...”这样的用法应当避免).

9 significant vs important great major valuable
9. significant vs. important/great/major/valuable

  • “significant” should be used to mean serving as “pointing to,” especially in the statistical sense of reaching a numeric threshold.


    “The mean blood pressure was significantly lowered, with a P value of 0.05”

    “The results of this research will be of great value to all nanotechnology researchers.”

    *Tip: Use the other words onlywhen statistical significance is not intended.


10 employ utilize vs use
10. employ/utilize vs. use

  • “use”: adequate in most cases to mean applying or drawing on for a purpose.

    (“use”: 使用广泛,表示为达到某一目的采用的方法与事物)

    “An autorefractor wasused to measure refractive error.”

    “employ”: can also mean to put a person to work or put an object to use.

    (“employ”: 聘用某人或使用某物)

    “All of the subjects had been employedat the company since 1997 or earlier.”

    *Tip: There is really no reason to use “utilize” in scientific writing.


B phrases

B. Phrases(短语)

Be Concise


Practice exercise

Practice Exercise!(练习)

When writing science, it’s important to be clear and use as few words as possible.


How did you do

a majority of

a number of

at a rapid rate

as a consequence of

at this point in time

based on the fact that

completely filled

despite the fact that

due to the fact that


many, several, some


because of

now, currently





How did you do?(你会选择哪些词?)

Writing in general

during the course of

fewer in number

for the purpose of examining

has the capability of

in all cases

in connection with

in the event that

in the near future

It has been reported by Wang

it is often the case that

during, while


to examine

can, is able to

always, invariably

about, concerning



Wang reported


Writing in general

it is possible that the cause is

it is worth pointing out that

it would thus appear that

large amounts of

large in size

large numbers of

located in, located near

on the basis of

oval in shape, oval-shaped

prior to [in time]

the cause may be

note that





in, near

from, by, because



C sentences

C. Sentences(句子)

Short is the Key


Shorter sentences
Shorter Sentences(短句)

The trend in scientific writing is toward shorter sentences with less punctuation.



Sentence structure
Sentence Structure(句子结构)

In 1600 the average length of an English sentence was 40 to 60 words.


In 1900 the average length was 21 words.


Sentence structure1
Sentence Structure

In 1970 the average length was 17 words.


Now the average length of an English sentence is 12 to 17 words.


Sentence structure2
Sentence Structure

Chinese uses long sentences.


English—particularly scientific English—uses very short sentences.


Sentence structure3
Sentence Structure

Short sentences are the NORM.

They don’t sound childish.



Exercise break down long sentences
Exercise: Break down long sentences(练习:分解长句子)

New descriptors of local environment and atomic state, the X and Y indexes, can accurately reflect electron distribution around atoms in different chemical microenvironments, therefore when these are applied to characterize local chemical environment and atomic self-state, a satisfactory result was obtained to simulate and predict 13C chemical shift of 22 natural amino acids and 4 non-natural amino acids.

(59 words)

Sentence structure4
Sentence Structure

Even though the grammar can be similar sometimes, Chinese sentences can be very different from English sentences


Sentence structure5
Sentence Structure

For example, Chinese is a head noun language; all modifiers precede the elements that they modify.



Sentence structure6
Sentence Structure

In English, some modifiers go in front of the noun

and some are placed after the noun.


The book that I bought here yesterday.

Sentence structure7
Sentence Structure

A modified soil’s single sorption … .

The single sorption of a modified soil … .

Sentence structure8
Sentence Structure

Correcting sentence structure:


If possible, don’t translate from Chinese.

Write in English from the start.


Sentence structure9
Sentence Structure

An important rule:



D punctuation

D. Punctuation(标点符号)

Has the Power to Completely Change the Meaning of a Sentence


Writing in general

1.Commas: Be careful about commas with essential and nonessential information


Writing in general

Ask yourself, “Is the informationessential or is it extra information that could be omitted”?


Writing in general

If the information is essential, do NOT use commas.


Writing in general

If the information is extra, nonessential, information, you MUST use commas.



Writing in general



The equipment that we used was made by the XX Company.

Writing in general



The equipment, which we used, was made by the XX Company.

Writing in general



The equipment, which was made in Shanghai, was very expensive.

2 hyphens en dash em dash try not to overuse because they can slow down the reader

2. Hyphens, en dash, em dash: Try not to overuse because they can slow down the reader(尽量少用连字符、短破折号和长破折号:他们会使读者不易阅读)

Hyphens and dashes
Hyphens and Dashes

  • Hyphen (-): Connector rather than in indicator of interruption or omission.(表连接,而不是停顿或省略)

    well-being, advanced-level

  • En dash (–): Means “through.”(表范围)

    August 28–29; pp. 2–5.

  • Em dash (—): Separator to create a strong break in a sentence, like parentheses.(很强的停顿,效果同括号)

    These two cities—that is, Beijing and

    Shanghai—are developing rapidly.


1. The introduction is written on pages 3■6.

2. The ISTIC conference will be held August 28■August 29 in Beijing, China.

3. Mr. Wang had tried asking, begging, and even demanding cooperation from his staff■all of whom were busy with other things■before he gave up and wrote the report himself.

4. No one■not even his professor■thought that his article would be published in Nature.

3 colons semicolons
3. Colons, Semicolons(冒号和分号)

  • Colon: for listing and defining, and indicates a stronger pause than a semicolon.


    The presentation covered three topics: grammar, punctuation, and format.

  • Semicolon: for joining two related complete sentences (shows closer relationship than “.”).


    The patient had no prior history of disease; however, he presented with many common symptoms.

4 asian fonts
4. Asian Fonts(全角字体)

  • All Asian fonts should be changed to Western fonts for accurate display on other computers and for proper printing.


    The biggest offenders:


    、 , ; : ( ) × % < >


Good online dictionaries to help with spelling:



  • American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.


but remember that it won’t catch mistakes like from/form, trial/trail…

(但是拼写检查工具不能查出像from/form, trial/trail之类的拼写错误…)


  • Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th edition

  • American Medical Association Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, 9th edition

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition

  • The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors, 3rd edition

Grammar books
Grammar Books(语法参考书)

  • The Gregg Reference Manual

  • The Little, Brown Handbook


  • The American Heritage Dictionary

  • Longman Dictionary of American English

  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

  • Oxford ESL Dictionary

Online resources
Online Resources(在线资源)









Thank you


Writing in general


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