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Precise writing

Scientific writing should be precise. This means choosing words and phrases very carefully so that they convey your exact meaning.

Quantify precisely

Example (1a) may well leave readers with more questions than answers: What progress? Whose progress? How was the progress monitored?

In example (1b), note how the use of the quantitative term every 1o minutes makes the method description much more precise:

Less precise

(1a) Progress was monitored.

More precise

(1b) The participants’ progress with the test was noted every 10 minutes.

Exemplify precisely

For the sake of precision, it is preferable to list one or two carefully chosen examples rather than an incomplete list with etc. or and so on:

Less precise

(2a) Exposure can lead to asbestosis, pleural thickening etc.

More precise

(2b) Exposure can lead to diseases such as asbestosis and pleural thickening.

Avoid unclear or vague prepositions

The misuse or vague use of prepositions such as of and with sometimes causes problems for readers, because these words have many meanings and functions. In your writing, use more precise terms if possible, as in sentence (3b).  

Less precise

(3a) The surface was prepared with 0.5 L of ethanol at 300 K.  

More precise

(3b) The surface was prepared using 0.5 L of ethanol at 300 K.

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