转转载:使科技写作更易读懂的十种方法

时间:2009年11月01日作者:amao查看次数:2,234 次评论次数:0

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转载说明:最近不少同学已经开始备战2010 MCM/ICM,以下文章希望对大家提高英文写作水平有一定的帮助。

===============以下为原文===================

使科技写作更易读懂的十种方法

王 应 宽
2009-10-29
UTC-6 CST
UMN, St Paul

博主按:本人最近在明尼苏达大学图书馆借阅了一些关于科技论文写作的书籍。觉得有些内容好,对写作很有帮助,于是在阅读时做了一些读书笔记。准备陆续将自认为有用的内容与大家分享。本文所摘录的“使你的写作更易读懂的十种方法”,将从选词构句的微观操作层面,指导作者如何进行有效的科技论文写作,如何修改完善文字写作和语言表达。转贴于此,希望对改进作者的英文写作有所裨益。
内容出处:Birgitta Malmfors, Phil Garnsworthy, Michael Grossman. Writing and Presenting Scientific Papers. First edition. Norttingham University Press, Norttingham, UK, First published in 2000. P133.

使科技写作更易读懂的十种方法

Ten Ways to Make Your Writing Easier to Read

1 Choice of words

Use words that are accurate-that mean what you want to say; words that are appropriate-that fit with well with other words in the paper; and words that are familiar-that are easy to read and understand. Use specific, concrete words; they are easier to understand and to remember.

When you have something simple to say, say it simply. Use the word that conveys your meaning most accurately, but when deciding between two such words, choose the shorter, more common word. There are exceptions to that rule, however. Use a long word if it is the only word that expresses your meaning accurately, if it is more familiar than a short word, if its connotations are more appropriate, or if scientists in your discipline prefer it.

For example:

Instead of…… Use……
Ameliorate improve
Approximately about
Commence begin
Enumerate list
Finalize finish, complete
Prioritize rank
Utilize use
Viable option choice

Your choice of words is important!

2 Avoid jargon

Use technical words and expressions (jargon) only when the terms are essential and familiar to the reader. Otherwise, avoid the use of jargon because it is difficult to understand. Instead, use a simpler “plain language” equivalent, even when the equivalent expression is longer.

3 Use active verbs and avoid passive verbs

A verb is active when the subject does the action. A verb is passive when the subject is acted upon. To identify a passive verb in a sentence, look for a form of the verb to be followed with by. For example, “This method was recommended by them” is passive, whereas “They recommended this method” is active.

A sentence that uses an active verb is shorter and clearer; more interesting and less boring; more direct because it emphasizes the subject; more forceful; takes less time to read and is easier to understand; and sounds less pompous and bureaucratic.

Passive verbs are desirable to provide coherence within a paragraph, i.e. to provide transitions between sentences by repeating a word. For example, “These problems ended with the discovery of penicillin. Penicillin now could be used by……” A sentence is easier to read if “old” information comes at the beginning of a sentence. Start one sentence with the idea that ended the previous sentence, even if it means using a passive verb. It is desirable also to use the passive verb in the following situations: to emphasize the receiver of the action, e.g. “Waston and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize”; to avoid assigning blame, e.g. “It is known that there are errors associated with field data”; or omit an unknown or irrelevant agent, e.g. “The petri dish was warmed slightly”.

4 Use strong verbs-not nouns

Put the weight of the sentence in the verb. Strong verbs make sentence more forceful and easier to read. Instead of writing, “We performed an analysis of the data,” it is more forceful to write, “We analyzed the data.” Nouns ending in –ment, -ion, and -al often hide the verb.

For example:

Instead of…… Use……
Make an adjustment adjust
Perform an analysis analyze
Provide assistance assist
Reach a conclusion conclude
Take into consideration consider
Make a decision decide
Perform an investigation investigate
Give a description of describe

5 Tighten your writing

If the same idea can be expressed in fewer words, then the writing is wordy. Wordy writing bores the reader and makes it difficult for the reader to understand what you mean. Good writing is tight, and tight writing allows you to convey more information. Tight writing is important, especially when you have to write an abstract with strict limits on the numbers of words or characters allowed.

To tighten your writing, follow these strategies:

Eliminate redundant words whose meaning is already clear.
E.g. a period of three months, during the course of the experiment, during the year 2008; maximum possible; past experience; plan in advance; refer back; the colour blue; true facts; repeat again.

Eliminate the words that say nothing
E.g. it is interesting to note that; quite; really; rather; the (especially with plurals); very (if it substitutes for damn!)

Use infinitives (the to form of the verb; e.g. to run) and gerunds (the –ing form of a verb; e.g. running) to make a sentence smoother and shorter.

Combine sentences to eliminate unnecessary words and to focus attention on key points

Put the main idea of your sentence into the subject and verb to reduce the number of words

Think about what you mean to say, write it in different ways, and choose the tightest one. Phrases beginning with of, which, or that often can be shortened. Instead of writing, “The estimates of the parameters were……,” it is shorter to write, “Parameter estimates were……” Sentences beginning with There are or It is can often be tightened. Instead of writing, “There are three reasons for these results,” it is tighter (and stronger) to write, “Three reasons for these results are……”.

Substitute a single word for a wordy phrase.

For example:

Instead of using…… Use……
At the present time now
Due to the fact that because (Not since)
It may be that perhaps
In the event that if
In the near future soon
Prior to the start of before
On a regular basis regularly
A second point is secondly
More often than not usually
Would seem to suggest suggests
One of the problems one problem
In spite of the fact that although, despite, or nevertheless
On two separate occasions twice
Were found to be in agreement agree
Take into consideration consider
Carry out experiments experiment
It is obvious that obviously

6 Sentence length and sentence structure

Keep sentences short and simple. Simple sentences have one main idea. Compound sentences have two main ideas that are closely related, and they are joined with conjunctions such as and, but, or or. Complex sentences have one main idea and one subordinate idea related logically, e.g. “If……, then……”.

Always edit sentences for tightness, but use long sentences to link ideas; to avoid a series of short, choppy sentences; or to reduce repetition. When using long sentences, keep the subject and verbs close together by putting modifying material at the end of the sentence. Instead of starting a sentence with a reference to some previous research, for example, start with the main finding of the research and place the reference at the end of the sentence. Strive to put the most important idea early in the sentence.

7 Use parallel structure

Use the same grammatical form or consistent pattern for ideas that have the same logical function. Parallel structure makes writing smoother, more forceful, and easier to understand, especially when used for a list of or series of ideas. Be sure that each item in the list begins or ends with the proper word form. Parallel structure is especially useful when writing results and the discussion. Once you decide on the form of the structure to present the result for one variable, say, use the same pattern to present results for other variables; simply copy, paste, and revise the text. Having mastered the result for one variable, the reader can see the pattern and can understand results easily for other variables.

8 Use transactions to link ideas

Transition words and phrases (e.g. and, during, or for example) signal connections between ideas. Transitions tell the reader if the text sentence continues the previous idea or starts a new one. They tell the reader whether the idea that comes next is more or less important than the previous one. Transitions are used also to introduce an example, to compare or contrast ideas, to summarize or end.

The following are examples of Transition words and phrases:

To show addition or continuation of the same idea:
And, in addition, also, likewise, first, second, third, similarly
To introduce the last or most important item:
Finally, moreover, furthermore
To introduce an example:
For example (e.g.), for instance, to illustrate, namely, indeed, specifically
To contrast:
In contrast, on the other hand, or, whereas
To show that the contrast is more important than the previous idea:
But, nevertheless, however, on the contrary
To show the cause and effect:
As a result, for this reason, because, therefore, consequently
To show time:
After, next, as, then, before, until, during, when, in the future, while, since
To summarize:
In conclusion, to summarize, to sum up, to conclude, in one word, in short

9 Write coherently

Coherence refers to the logical sequence of sentences within a paragraph. Just as you should begin a sentence with the subject, which states the main idea of that sentence, you should begin a paragraph with a topic sentence, which states the main idea of that paragraph and provides structure to the paper. A good topic sentence forecasts the reader the content of the paragraph and holds the paragraph together. A paragraph that lacks a topic sentence lacks unity. If a paragraph contains more than one main idea, consider linking ideas with a transition sentence. Otherwise, consider splitting the paragraph into more than one. To improve coherence within a paragraph, discuss only one idea, or one topic, at a time. Use the same organizational pattern for successive sentences. Use parallel structure for the main subjects and main verbs. Tell the reader what to expect, e.g. “There are two problems with this method: the first is……, and the second is……”; then go on to elaborate on the problems.

10 Make your logic clear

Write what you really mean to say and write it logically! If you have difficulty putting an idea onto paper, say “What I really mean to say is……,” and write the words you mean to say. Once the words are on paper, you can revise them. Above all, make sure what you write is coherent and makes clear, logical and scientific sense!

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