Gathered by Paz H Diaz, PhD
Like most good things, writing well needs a lot of patience and practice. But the rewards are many. You express yourself — even your innermost feelings — well. You get better test scores and grades. You win the admiration of friends.
Here are tips to go about it.
- Write short sentences. A sentence should not have more than 10 or 12 words.
- Write sentences with clear statements; do not string unrelated sentences in a paragraph. Each sentence should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
- Big words are often meaningless. Big words seem easier to use. The use of small words compels us to think about what we are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
- Never use a word whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work; you cannot be a writer or a scholar
- Do not too many adjectives. Use as few adverbs as possible.
- Use concrete examples or words. Always go for the concrete.
- Avoid using the word “I” or “We” throughout the document. The entire document should be written in third person. Remember you are reporting, not advertising or advocating.
- Be careful with your tenses Do not shift tense in the middle of the document – a common mistake.
- Use an ACRONYM section and a DEFINITION OF TERMS section in addition to your REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY as needed.
- Do not assume that the reader will understand all the jargon that you may be accustomed to. Replace “A live circuit can kill” with “An energized electrical circuit can kill”.
- Always clarify abbreviations, the first time you use in the main body of the paper. Avoid using abbreviations in the abstract section.
- Avoid needless words – e.g “red in color”, “worst-case maximum possible error”
- Do not use colloquial English – for example: “… rest of the analysis is plain number crunching…” or “a lot of”
- Understand the importance of the articles “a” “an” and “the” in English See how odd the sentence reads – “Main objective of paper is to develop a reduced model of …”
- When do you use „that‟ and „which‟? It‟s not always clear – however use „that‟ whenever you know whom you are replacing with „that‟. Use „which‟, whenever you are not sure who is being replaced by „which‟. For instance, “She applied the same pressure to the pipe that she had been applying to other pipes” and “These machines require mature technologies, which are difficult to obtain.”
- Do not start a sentence with „So‟.
- Do not start a sentence with „But‟. Try „However‟.
- Do not start or end a sentence with „To‟.
- Try to avoid beginning a sentence with a word that has a –ing suffix. For example, “Assuming a sentence is long, it can be shortened…” sounds long winded.
- „a force of five Newtons was applied‟ is wrong. It should be „a force of five newtons was applied‟. Similarly, „ten Amperes‟ is wrong; „ten amperes‟ is correct.
- Understand the difference between “its” and “it‟s”.
- “the turbine‟s color was blue” is incorrect. It should be “the turbine color was blue” or “the color of the turbine was blue”. Possession of inanimate object should not be indicated by an apostrophe followed by „s‟.
- All equations must be numbered.
- Be careful of self-contradiction – “the mileage from an old vehicle is less than that of a new vehicle, but not much”.
- Avoid dangling superlatives – Replace “The voltage obtained was much smaller.” with “A smaller voltage was obtained.”
- Do not be judgmental of your own work or other‟s work. Let the reader make up his/her own mind. For instance, here is a stupid sentence – “a very simple technique to calculate the resistance of the line is presented”. Maybe to you it seems simple, but others may disagree. Similarly, “Ref [XX] presents a difficult technique to measure the resistance…” is unacceptable.
- As far as possible avoid the use of phrases like “an innovative…” in the title of your manuscript or paper. Do not use it anywhere in the paper. It‟s judgmental.
- Try to avoid using numbers to describe something, unless you are extremely sure of those numbers. Avoid exaggerative statements like “… leads to losses worth crores of rupees…”. Wherever you put numbers, provide references from which you got that number.
- “Contact with a live 765 kV conductor will result in death” sounds cocky. How do you know for sure? Try “Contact with a live 765 kV conductor may result in death”.
- Avoid using the word „obvious‟. For instance, “it is obvious that such a high resistance will lead to losses” sounds arrogant. If it is so obvious, what is the need to state it? In case, your reader does not find it obvious, you are insulting his/her intelligence by stating that it is obvious.
- Never use exclamation marks in technical writing.
- Semi-colons and colons are powerful devices. Be careful how you use them.
- Replace “can‟t” with “cannot” and “won‟t” with “will not”.
- Do not start a sentence with “This” unless it is absolutely certain from the previous sentence, what “This” refers to. Consider “Bholu Ram gave his son a pen and a knife for his birthday. This would help him later in life.”
- Bracket? Consider replacing with a comma, unless you are defining acronyms.
For instance, “Only one rotor winding (d-axis) is assumed” sounds better as
“Only one rotor winding, d-axis, is assumed”.
- As far as possible write numbers in words in sentences – “Close to fifty thousand people benefited from the installation of the transformers.” However, it is “a factor of 2” not “a factor of two”.
- Remember, a resistor is soldered, a resistance is measured, the value of the resistance is 470 ohms.
- Remember in experiments you cannot measure zero or infinity. It can only be negligible small or too large to be measured correctly.
- Replace “bus had a 10 MW load” with “bus had a load of 10 MW”
- The word “data” is plural. “All the data were…”