Words are the building blocks of sentences: Use them precisely

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Words are the building blocks of sentences: Use them precisely Presented by: Mary Nishikawa, MA, ELS Editor and Trainer, Academia Cactus Communications K.K.

Lecturer Introduction Mary Nishikawa Board Certified Editor Trainer, Academia Over 25 years of experience in the review, editing, and rewriting of biomedical research reports Understanding the concerns researchers and academics have and helping them publish in top SCI journals such as Science and Cell 2

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Aims of seminar You will learn how to • Use plain words • Write sentences that are clear and concise • Position sentences in a paragraph properly

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Is this correct?

Plain, easy-to-understand words should NOT be used in academic writing

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Questions to ask 1. Does the use of “plain” words in a research report matter? 2. Does the choice or omission of words affect meaning? 3. Does position of words in a sentence matter?

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1. Does the use of plain words matter? “Writing is an instrument for conveying ideas from one mind to another; the writer’s job is to make his reader apprehend his meaning readily and precisely.” – Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words (1954)

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1. Does the use of plain words matter? • Avoid abstract nouns – Use descriptive subjects and active verbs • Avoid “elegant” words – Be direct and to the point • Avoid verbose phrases and vague words – Be specific

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Which one is easier to read? Sentence 1. In consideration of the requirements for flat-rolled aluminum products, there is the observation of an increasing demand in the market for tight dimension tolerance, especially for thickness distribution along the strip length and profile (thickness distribution along the strip width). Source: Bagheripoor M, Bisadi H. Production and Manufacturing Research. 2014;2:128-141. 8

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Sentence 2. Recently, customers are demanding tight dimension tolerance in flat-rolled aluminum products; especially, they require an evenly distributed thickness along the strip length and profile (the width).

Adapted from: Bagheripoor M, Bisadi H. Production and Manufacturing Research. 2014;2:128-141.

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Which one is easier to read? 1. In consideration of the requirements for flat-rolled aluminum products, there is the observation of an increasing demand in the market for tight dimension tolerance, especially for thickness distribution along the strip length and profile (thickness distribution along the strip width). 2. Recently, customers are demanding tight dimension tolerance in flat-rolled aluminum products; especially, they require an evenly distributed thickness along the strip length and profile (the width). 10

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Use descriptive subjects, active verbs Customers are demanding

They require

observation of increasing demand

In consideration of the requirements

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1. Does the use of plain words matter? • Avoid abstract nouns – Use descriptive subjects and active verbs • Avoid “elegant” words – Be direct and to the point • Avoid verbose phrases and vague words – Be specific

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Which one is easier to read? Description 1.

Data collection from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2001 showed a great contribution towards the elucidation of individuals who had reported injection drug use in the past year, 47.1% purchasing their last syringe at a pharmacy.

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Description 2.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999 to 2001) found that 47.1% of people who had reported injecting illicit drugs in the past year bought their last syringe at a pharmacy. Hopefully, this will clarify pharmacists’ perceptions and encourage them to reach out to illicit drug users who care enough to buy clean needles. 15

Avoid “elegant” words

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elucidation

clarify

purchase

buy

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1. Does the use of plain words matter? • Avoid abstract nouns – Use descriptive subjects and active verbs • Avoid “elegant” words – Be direct and to the point • Avoid verbose phrases and vague words – Be specific

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What does this mean? • Engineering services of the military have unsurmountable difficulties because of barriers in the stoppage of funding arising from governmental bodies.

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Ask the right questions Engineering services of the military have unsurmountable difficulties because of barriers in the stoppage of funding arising from governmental bodies.

Who are having difficulties? What are the difficulties? Why are there difficulties? 20

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Answer the questions Who? – Ecologists in the US Army corps of engineers (USACE) What? – Ecologists are loosing their jobs Why? – Congress is contracting out to private companies for coastal and water resources engineering

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After asking the questions Edit the sentence by including the specifics • Engineers in the army corps are loosing their jobs because US Congress has stopped funding for waterways services provided by the USAC. 22

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Avoid verbose phrases Stoppage of funding

Stopped funding

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Avoid vague words

“Arising” from

Provided by

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Be specific in your writing

Governmental “bodies”

US Congress?

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Check your understanding. Is anything wrong with this sentence? Preventive services implementation had unsurmountable difficulties because of barriers in the cessation of funding arising from governmental bodies in healthcare.

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Ask the right questions Preventive services implementation had unsurmountable difficulties because of barriers in the cessation of funding arising from governmental bodies in healthcare.

Who is implementing the services? What are the difficulties? Why are there difficulties? 28

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Answer the questions Who? – Physicians What? – Trouble implementing preventive services Why? – Dept. of Health and Human Services stopped funding

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After asking the questions Edit the sentence by including the specifics • Physicians have had trouble implementing preventative services in 2014 because the Department of Health and Human Services stopped funding the program in that year. 30

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Check your understanding: Should we fix this sentence? Academic counsel can exert a powerful influence on nuclear weapons proliferation that concerns those who purchase weapon grade uranium because the negotiations helps in the termination of the proliferation, according to the provision of information related to institutions.

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Academic counsel can exert a powerful influence on nuclear weapons proliferation that concerns those who purchase weapon grade uranium because the negotiations helps in the termination of the proliferation, according to the provision of information related to institutions. We’d better know what this means! 32

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Ask the right questions Who? – members of the national academy of sciences What? – influencing world leaders in the IAEA Why? – to stop buying weapons grade uranium and end the proliferation of nuclear weapons How? – present atomic energy commission simulations of worst case scenarios

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After asking the questions Edit the sentence by including the specifics Members of the national academy of sciences presenting atomic energy commission simulations of worse case scenarios can influence world leaders to stop buying weapon grade uranium and end the proliferation of nuclear weapons. 34

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Use descriptive phrases Academic counsel

National Academy of Sciences

Exert a powerful influence

influence

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Use descriptive phrases Provision of information

Related to institutions

presenting simulations

Atom Energy Commission

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Use plain words cessation

stop

purchase

buy

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Use plain words

termination

end

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Questions to ask 1. Does the use of “plain” words in a research report matter? 2. Does the choice or omission of words affect meaning? 3. Does position of words in a sentence matter?

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Check your understanding: Is a critical word missing? Pharmacist counsel can exert a powerful influence on drug usage that concerns those who purchase needles at pharmacies because the counseling helps in the cessation of IV drug use, according to the provision of information.

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Ask the right questions

Who? – Pharmacists What? – reaching out to illicit drug users Why? – to help them stop using How? – advise users to visit methadone clinics

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After asking the questions Edit the sentence by including the specifics Pharmacists reaching out to illicit drug users who buy needles at their shop help users stop using IV drugs by advising them to visit methadone clinics. 42

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Questions to ask 1. Does the use of “plain” words in a research report matter? Words

2. Does the choice or omission of words affect meaning? 3. Does position of words in a sentence matter?

Sentences

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Does position of words matter? • Sentence 1. Deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, is thought to be the blueprint of life. • Sentence 2. The blueprint of life is thought to be deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA.

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Writing easy-to read definitions

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Move technical words to the end “When readers see a technical term for the first time, particularly a term that they will not instantly recognize, they can best grasp that term if it appears not at the beginning of a sentence, in its topic, but at the end.” – Joseph P. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace (1996).

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The blueprint of life is thought to be deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA.

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One way to define a term Original: “Roundabout (Robo) family proteins are immunoglobulin-type cell surface receptors that are expressed predominantly in the nervous system.” [1] 1. Stem Cells. 2009 January ; 27(1): 183–190. doi:10.1634/stemcells.2008-0292.

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Place term at the end to improve readability Improved: Immunoglobulin-type receptors expressed predominantly on the surface of neuronal cells are the roundabout (Robo) family proteins [1]. 1. Stem Cells. 2009 January ; 27(1): 183–190. doi:10.1634/stemcells.2008-0292. 50

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Be kind to your readers

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Bringing it all together How do I write readable sentences?

Remember…  Use plain words in sentences containing technical terms  Be specific: Revise your sentence to reveal the main character and action  Position the main character correctly, at the start or end 52

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Now we know the answers! 1. Does the use of “plain” words matter? Yes it does! 2. Does the choice or omission of words matter? Yes it does! 3. Does position of words in a sentence matter? Yes, it does!

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References • Joseph M. Williams. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London; 1990. • Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London; 2008.

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Contact Details Mary Nishikawa, MA, ELS Board Certified Editor in the Life Sciences Trainer in Academic Communications [email protected] Tel: 03-5542-1950 Fax: 03-4496-4557 URL: www.editage.jp www.cactus.co.jp

Dr. EddyTM personifies our efforts to support authors with good publication practices. He can be found at Editage Insights Japan http://www.editage.jp/insights/

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Words are the building blocks of sentences: Use them precisely

Words are the building blocks of sentences: Use them precisely Presented by: Mary Nishikawa, MA, ELS Editor and Trainer, Academia Cactus Communication...

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