Language problems

We often see the same language problems over and over again in the manuscripts we receive. Here we discuss some of the more common problem categories.

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Gratuitous phrases

Phrases such as was shown to be, it is well known that, the size of, and there are, are rarely necessary or even useful. Each of the sentences below can be shortened with no loss of meaning, as shown.

Avoid: Procarbazine was shown to be carcinogenic in rodents.
Write: Procarbazine is carcinogenic in rodents.

Avoid: It is well known that most DNA is non-coding.
Write: Most DNA is non-coding.

Avoid: The size of the cII gene is 294 bp.
Write: The cII gene has 294 bp.

Avoid: There are 88 keys on a piano.
Write: A piano has 88 keys.

As a general rule, authors should avoid using words that serve no purpose.

“Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.” HAL to Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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"Understanding" books

Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525-1569)