Wordy text can be difficult to read. In this blog, we discuss ways to reduce wordiness in scientific writing, using real world examples from papers edited at International Science Editing.
Look for synonymous words
People use social media to share their views, thoughts, and opinions.
People use social media to share their views.
Views, thoughts, and opinions are synonymous. You can remove two of these words without compromising understanding.
In the future, corresponding regions of the fear circuit observed in this study could serve as a basis for further study.
Corresponding regions of the fear circuit observed in this study could serve as a basis for further study.
In the future and further study are synonymous in this context, so the former can be removed without compromising understanding.
Look for redundant words
The corrosion properties were investigated at the 2 h and 6 h time points.
The corrosion properties were investigated at 2 h and 6 h.
Redundancy is the repetition of the same idea in different words. In the example above, we know that 2 h and 6 h are time points, therefore this term can be removed without compromising understanding.
R2 values ranged from 0.52 to 0.79, thus suggesting that the OEE scale was reliable.
R2 values ranged from 0.52 to 0.79, suggesting that the OEE scale was reliable.
Thus is redundant here. Although only one word is removed, small changes throughout the manuscript will add up to improve the writing overall.
Sea surface temperatures were highest in these months of the year.
Sea surface temperatures were highest in these months.
Of the year can be removed without compromising understanding.
Look for unnecessary qualifiers
The vocal repertoires of the individuals belonging to the two subspecies were rather similar.
The vocal repertoires of the individuals belonging to the two subspecies were similar.
There is no difference between rather similar and similar; thus, rather is unnecessary and can be removed.
Look for unnecessary expletives
There are many studies that have shown an association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum level and blood pressure.
Many studies have shown an association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum level and blood pressure.
There are in this example is known as a grammatical expletive. It is used to emphasise the subject of a sentence. Expletives are sometimes referred to as “empty words” and should be used judiciously.
Look for repeated words
The cumulative release rates of β-EF-Bar and β-EF-Bar-Lip were 8% and 7.4% at 1 h, the cumulative release rates were 7.8% and 5.9% at 6 h, and the cumulative release rates were 67% and 51.4% at 192 h, respectively.
The cumulative release rates of β-EF-Bar and β-EF-Bar-Lip were 8% and 7.4% at 1 h, 7.8% and 5.9% at 6 h, and 67% and 51.4% at 192 h, respectively.
Cumulative release rates is unnecessarily repeated multiple times in this example.
The antioxidant effect of the drug is evident from the significant effect of the drug on lipid peroxidation activities.
The antioxidant effect of the drug is evident from its significant effect on lipid peroxidation activities.
Often, for simple sentences, nouns or noun phrases can be replaced by pronouns. In this example, the noun drug can be replaced with the pronoun its without hindering understanding.
Vibrio harveyi has been extensively studied over the past 10 years. From these studies, several virulence factors have been identified in V. harveyi.
Extensive studies of Vibrio harveyi over the past 10 years have identified several virulence factors.
Repetition of Vibrio harveyi can be avoided by combining the sentences.
In this study, we compared the virulence of the most common serovars of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in China in BALB/c mice and piglets. Intraperitoneal injection was used to compare P. aeruginosa virulence in BALB/c mice and piglets.
In this study, we compared the virulence of the most common serovars of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in China in BALB/c mice and piglets using intraperitoneal injection.
Repetition of the terms Pseudomonas aeruginosa and BALB/c mice and piglets can be avoided by combining the sentences.
Scholars suspect that bqsA plays an significant role in inhibiting virulence in pathogenic Vibrio and have conducted some studies to explore the function of the bqsA gene.
Various studies have explored the function of bqsA, which is suspected to play a significant role in inhibiting the virulence of pathogenic Vibrio.
Repetition of the term bqsA can be avoided by restructuring the sentence.
We measured serum IL- 33 levels by ELIZA assay.
We measured serum IL- 33 levels by ELIZA.
ELIZA is an abbreviation for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, i.e., assay is part of the expanded term and should not be repeated.
Use the active voice where possible
The migration of HCC cells was shown to be inhibited by GA.
GA inhibited the migration of HCC cells.
The active voice is usually more concise than the passive voice. See our blog Active versus passive voice in scientific writing for more on this topic.
Avoid roundabout expressions
To find out more particular knowledge of the effects of FGF21 …
To better understand the effects of FGF21 …
To find out more particular knowledge is a roundabout way of saying to better understand.
We measured the effects of FLP on apple juice yield and flavour, the results of which are presented in Figure 1.
We measured the effects of FLP on apple juice yield and flavour (Figure 1).
(Figure 1) is as clear, yet more concise, than the results of which are presented in Figure 1.
It has been reported that certain pri-miRNAs are highly expressed in human embryonic stem cells.
Certain pri-miRNAs are highly expressed in human embryonic stem cells.
It has been reported that unnecessarily delays the point of the statement. Use such expressions judiciously.
Look for verbs disguised as nouns
Tissue examination was done by light microscopy.
Tissues were examined by light microscopy.
In the first sentence, the verb to examine is used as a noun, i.e., examination. When an author does this, weak verbs, such as was done, must be added.
An increase in the level of amyloid peptides was observed.
The level of amyloid peptides increased.
Using increase/decrease as nouns, i.e., an increase/a decrease, often increases wordiness.
Every B. Writing economically in medicine and science: tips for tackling wordiness. Medical Writing. 2017 Mar 1;26:17-20. Available at: https://journal.emwa.org/writing-better/writing-economically-in-medicine-and-science-tips-for-tackling-wordiness/