In a previous blog post, the Publishing Services team at Ochsner Health offered some suggestions for improving the clarity and precision of scholarly writing. Here are additional suggestions for improving the readability of your work.
When discussing quantity, use the phrases more than and less than instead of the words over and under. Over and under are more appropriate for describing where an object exists in relation to something else. (eg, The new safety goggles were large enough to fit over Dr. Smith’s glasses, but more than half of the other pairs she had tried on were not.).
- Example: Sixty-three percent of the study participants were over 40 years old.
- Correction: Sixty-three percent of the study participants were more than 40 years old.
Do not label patients with diseases or disorders. Place people before their ailments, not after.
- Inappropriate: Sickle cell children often experience…
- Appropriate: Children with sickle cell disease often experience…
- Inappropriate: Cancer patients may receive chemotherapy.
- Appropriate: Patients with cancer may receive chemotherapy.
Define uncommon words and irregular procedures; do not assume that the reader has the specialized knowledge that you have.
- Example: The patient had Bruck syndrome.
- Better: The patient had Bruck syndrome, a rare autosomal recessive condition that presents with many of the symptoms of osteogenesis imperfecta and is partly characterized by frequent joint contractures.
Let the facts and figures in your paper speak for themselves and avoid subjective or opinionated phrases, adjectives, and adverbs.
- Example: We found the diversity of the study pool interesting.
- Better: The age range of the study pool differed from the age ranges in other similar studies.
- Example: Unfortunately, the patient passed away.
- Better: The patient died on postoperative day 6.
Avoid beginning sentences with phrases like It is and There are. These phrases are meaningless. Rewrite the sentence to begin with the subject.
- Example: There were at least 12 nurses on each floor.
- Better: At least 12 nurses were on each floor.
- Example: It is common for doctors to prescribe cervical collars for patients with Hirayama disease.
- Better: Doctors commonly prescribe cervical collars for patients with Hirayama disease.
For more grammar and writing tips, check out these other previous Ochsner Journal Blog posts: