Presenting your work in English—even if it is not your first language—greatly increases the audience for your research. When you write and publish in English, you get access to nearly the entire world of research.
But for non-native speakers, writing in English is much easier said than done. Because English is in essence a mash-up of Germanic and Romance languages, the rules can seem contradictory, and the vocabulary balloons in size.
So to help a little, here are a few tips to help improve your written English in your manuscripts
- Use simpler words. Except for where you have to use words specific to your field and your experiment, you should try to use simpler words. For example, you would write, “Person A ran faster than Person B;” rather than, “Person A’s velocity exceeded that of Person B.”
- Use the active—rather than the passive—voice. This means that you should, in most cases, structure your sentences so that the subject is clearly and directly taking the sentence’s action. For example, “Person C ran the experiment;” rather than, “The experiment was run by Person C.” The first example is active voice; the second is passive voice. You can often tell if your sentence is in the passive voice if you can add, “by Person C” at the end. Just like in the example above—you might sometimes see it as, “The experiment was run,” and you can tell its passive voice because you can add the phrase, “by Person C” at the end.
- Use comparisons properly. Comparisons are frequently made in the Results section of papers. These often involve the words “between,” “among,” “like,” “with,” and “than.” When making comparisons, avoid being vague, and be as specific as possible. For example, you can say, “Reactions with the new machine were faster than with the old machine.” This comparison makes clear that you’re comparing a new piece of equipment with an older one, as opposed to leaving the comparison hanging and vague.
- Subject and verb placement. Readers expect the verb, a word that describes an action, in a sentence to be near the subject of that sentence. However, some authors tend to insert a lot of text that describes the subject between the subject and verb. In these cases, when the reader reaches the verb, they can forget what the subject was. They will then have to go back to the beginning of the sentence for clarification. Your reader should only have to read your writing once to understand your ideas. To improve the readability of your manuscript, keep subjects and verbs close together in your sentences. For example: The patient’s liver readings [s] had increased [v] by 50% at 48 hours after exposure to the virus.
These tips and suggestions should help you get started.
But to learn more about how to prepare for your next article submission, you can take Springe Nature’s free online tutorial (registration required), “Writing a journal manuscript.” You can also explore more resources at Nature Masterclasses and at AJE.
Best of luck with your next manuscript!