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Bonus Tip Included!

25
Keys
to Write
Better
and Faster
From Scratch
Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.
ScientificWritingGuide.com
Copyright © 2009 by Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher.

Published by:
Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.
Fuchu, Tokyo
Japan
www.ScientificWritingGuide.com

Graphic Design by: Rome Graphics Design


25 Keys
to
Write Faster
and Better
From Scratch

Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.


ScientificWritingGuide.com
Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

Table of Contents
Part I: How to Develop Basic Habits as a Writer............................ 1
1. Use Dictionaries............................................................................................................ 2
2. Use Thesauruses........................................................................................................... 2
3. Use The Chicago Manual of Style............................................................................... 2
4. Read Regularly.............................................................................................................. 3
5. Watch Words.................................................................................................................. 3
6. Develop a Good Ear...................................................................................................... 3
7. Read Books on Writing................................................................................................. 4

Part II: How to Get Started................................................................ 5


8. Clarify the Reason Why You Write............................................................................ 5
9. Do the Literature Search.............................................................................................. 5
10. Take Notes.................................................................................................................... 5
11. Do Writing Exercises................................................................................................... 6
12. Picture Your Audience............................................................................................... 6
13. Make a Decision about Authorship.......................................................................... 7

Part III: How to Write More in Less Time......................................... 8


14. Juggle Multiple Projects.............................................................................................. 8
15. Set Ambitious Goals................................................................................................... 8
16. Manage Information Overload.................................................................................. 9
17. Delegate and Outsource............................................................................................. 9
18. Keep Your Mouth Shut..............................................................................................10
19. Use Familiar Words....................................................................................................10

Part IV: How to Make Your Paragraphs Flow................................ 11


20. Make Your Writing Move towards Only One Direction......................................11
21. Avoid Side Issues........................................................................................................11
22. Use a Topic Sentence per Paragraph........................................................................12
23. Use Short Paragraphs................................................................................................12
24. Vary Sentence Lengths..............................................................................................12
25. Use Bridge Words.......................................................................................................12

Bonus Tip:
5 Steps to Write an Abstract of a Scientific Paper....................... 14
More Information.............................................................................. 16

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Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

1
Part
How to Develop Basic
Habits as a Writer

W riting is not my natural talent. So long as I am concerned,


writing is rather a skill acquired through experience and
practice. If so, is there a shortcut to improve writing? Well, I
don’t know the ultimate answer. However, I do believe you can cut
the learning curve in half and compress the learning processes.
“It is How? First, I think you have to develop certain habits as a writer.
simple In Part I, I want to share 7 habits. Here they are: 1) use dictionaries;
though. 2) use thesauruses; 3) use The Chicago Manual of Style; 4) read
regularly; 5) watch words; 6) develop a good ear; 7) read books
But don’t on writing.
be fooled This sounds pretty simple, right? It is simple though. But don’t be
by the fooled by the simplicity of it. It’s like weight loss or exercise: you
know what you should do, but it’s not necessarily easy to constantly
simplicity do the right thing. I think that maintaining all the habits all at the
of it.” same time creates more substantial snowball effect over the long
term. If you want to improve writing, I want you to start developing
these habits for the next 60 days!

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25 Keys to Write Better and Faster From Scratch Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

1. Use Dictionaries
Keep dictionaries at hand and use them on a regular basis. This is a simple
yet powerful way to improve your writing. When you wonder what a
word really means, you consult a dictionary. Make it a habit to do so. Even
if you already know the word, you probably learn something new. Using
dictionaries will help you to clarify your thinking processes and to choose
the right word. Here are dictionaries I would recommend:
• Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
• Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
• Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners of American English

In addition to dictionaries, it is also helpful for you to have reference books or


an encyclopedia in your specific field. For example, if you are a chemist, you
may need McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Chemistry.

2. Use Thesauruses
Thesauruses may increase your vocabulary, but that is not the point I want
to emphasize here. A reason why you use a thesaurus is that you can find
As Gaius short and familiar words. Don’t try to find words that you don’t normally
Julius Caesar encounter. Don’t try to impress others by using unfamiliar words. Unfamiliar
words are powerless; short, familiar words powerful. As Gaius Julius Caesar
said, “Avoid said, “Avoid an unusual and unfamiliar word just as you would a reef.”
an unusual
and Another reason is that you can reduce phrases or words you unconsciously
overuse. This is especially true of transition phrases. We tend to use the same
unfamiliar transition phrase over and over. By using a thesaurus, you may replace in
word just as addition by also, besides, additionally, furthermore, further, or what is more. You
may replace on the other hand by nonetheless, but, although, yet, or, however,
you would depending on the context.
a reef.”
3. Use The Chicago Manual of Style
Many books, textbooks, teachers, writers, and professors may talk about
grammatical rules a hundred times in a hundred way; but the only thing I
can trust in this area is The Chicago Manual of Style, which is known as “the
indispensable reference for all work with words.” You can use this manual
the same way you use a dictionary. The Chicago doesn’t lie. It gives you
detailed guidelines and rules that are based on logic and convention.

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Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

I want to emphasize this: when it comes to grammatical rules, no person is


more knowledgeable than The Chicago Manual of Style. Yes, you don’t need The
Chicago every single time you write. However, using The Chicago is crucial
especially if you want to write in a more professional style. You might think
intricate details may seem to have nothing to do with your writing. But God
is in the detail. That’s why I want you to pay attention to detailed aspects of
your writing. The Chicago Manual of Style will save your time for this purpose.

4. Read Regularly
Yes, you have to read in order to write. The more you read, the faster you are
able to write. Read many articles in your niche or field to learn current topics,
their specific language, and what your audience is interested in.

Also read a lot of materials that have nothing to do with your field. Read
financial reports, business news, magazines, sales letters, poems, and so
on. You may learn how newspapers convey information concisely. You may
learn how a financial report describes precise numbers. You may learn how
magazines feature current trends. You may learn how a copywriter grabs
readers’ attention and persuade them. By doing this, you can also stay touch
with changes in the language. Remember, language is constantly changing.

5. Watch Words
Your good spelling comes from your ability to visualize English words
in your mental mind. If you try to memorize the spelling of a word by
associating it with the pronunciation, you may misspell. If you know words
you often misspell, pick up these words, store them in flash cards. Watch
them from time to time, and try to visualize them in you metal mind.

6. Develop a Good Ear


Have you ever been overwhelmed by complex grammatical rules?
Grammatical rules are tough to remember at least for me, and I don’t want
to pick up a textbook on grammar ever single time. Well, here is a solution to
this: listening to audio books or audio programs. Why? The answer is simple
if you consider the following truth: you have learned language from your
ears, not from your eyes or memorizing rules.

The writer’s writer Gary Provost said, “It’s not a matter of remembering rules
you were given in high schools. It is, quite simply, a matter of music.” In other
words, developing a good ear reduces grammatical mistakes. If you are not a

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25 Keys to Write Better and Faster From Scratch Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

native speaker, you have to develop a good ear more consciously. By listening
to audio books, you can develop the rhythm that native speakers have.

7. Read Books on Writing


Success becomes easier if you leverage the knowledge, wisdom, and
experience of writers who have solid track records. If you want to cut the
learning curve in half and accelerate your learning processes, read books on
writing you are interested in. Here I pick up two books on writing.

1) 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost. If you like this Report,
you’ll probably like this book. One day I stumbled upon this book at a
local bookstore in Tokyo and picked up this book. It grabbed my attention.
Within 24 hours, it changed my writing style. This is my favorite. And in all
honesty I think the book is far more useful and practical than The Elements
of Style. Fortunately, it just costs 7 cents per writing tip. His book Make Your
Words Work is also useful for both fiction and nonfiction.

2) Super-Productivity For Writers by Bob Bly. If you want to write faster


and to be more productive, you may want this ebook. Bob Bly is a prolific
and competent copywriter and the man McGraw-Hill calls “America’s top
copywriter.” He wrote 70+ books in his spare time simply because he is a
fast writer. This ebook will help writers who want to double or triple their
productivity.

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Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

2
Part
How to Prepare
and Get Started

T hey say, “You have to take actions!” or “Just write!” OK, that might be true.
But do you know how to get started in your writing project? Do you know
exactly what to do next? Actually, what I found is that getting started is not
simply about jumping in and writing about something, although doing writing
“Take notes exercises is important. In Part II, I give you a step-by-step plan to get started.

no matter
8. Clarify the Reason Why You Write
how crazy
Do you know what motivates you most? The first step to getting started is
or odd to get there in your mind first. In other words, clarify your intention: image
an idea it, think about it, and visualize it. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is
more important than knowledge.” Whenever you lose enthusiasm or feel
seems to be.” unmotivated, go back to this place.

9. Do the Literature Search


“You cannot write securely on any subject unless you have gathered far more
information than you will use,” said Gary Provost. Literature search takes
more time than you might think, but it’s worth it. As you gather information,
ask yourself, “What is already known?” “What is not known?” “Is there any
contradictory story in the literature?” These questions will help you when you
write the Introduction section. Doing the literature search is indeed essential
down the road.

10. Take Notes


As you set your intention and get started, new ideas will come to you anywhere
at any time. If you don’t take notes, your ideas will probably go elsewhere. Even
if you can remember every idea, keeping many ideas in your mind is not very
good for your mental health. The solution is to capture you ideas. Take notes no
matter how crazy or odd an idea seems to be. Take notes on your interpretation
of data, a new concept of experiments, or a new idea of an algorithm, and so on.

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25 Keys to Write Better and Faster From Scratch Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

11. Do Writing Exercises


While taking notes is part of writing exercise, it is also important to do writing
exercises on a regular basis. Write down anything for a certain amount of time,
whether you are motivated or not.

Why is this important? The reason is this: by doing writing exercises, you
naturally view yourself as a person who writes. That makes you a writer. Here are
3 steps to do writing exercises:

• Step 1: Write down whatever comes to your mind. Let words come
to your mind and let words out of your head. While you are writing,
don’t worry about making mistakes.
• Step 2: Don’t edit while you are writing. Keep writing even if you
“But neglect don’t like some wording or phrases.
this little • Step 3: Keep writing for a certain amount of time (15 minutes, or
voice (or 33 minutes, or 50 minutes). Save what you have written and don’t
throw away anything.
your ego)
and keep You are done. If you keep doing writing exercises for a couple of months or less,
writing.” you will get your first draft.

Remember, when you are doing writing exercises, a little voice inside you may
say: “What will they think?” or “What will they say?” But neglect this little
voice (or your ego) and keep writing. In the beginning, your writing should be
exclusively yours. Remember what E. B. White said: “The whole duty of a writer
is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience
of one.”

12. Picture Your Audience


What kind of terminology should you use? What kinds of technical terms do
you have to explain before you use them? What kind of background knowledge
do you have to include? The answer: it all depends on audience you try
communicate. Picturing your audience is important for you to communicate
effectively. So who is your reader? Think about it for a moment.

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Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

13. Make a Decision about Authorship


Authorship is a serious matter, so you have to make a decision on authorship
at an early stage, not at the last minute. Two important things: First, include
researchers who intellectually and substantially contributed to the work.
Second, eliminate those who had little contribution to the work.

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3
Part
How to Write More
In Less Time

D o you want to write more in less time? Maybe you think writing faster is a
special talent. Well, I used to think that way. But there is a proven strategy
to write faster and be more productive. In Part III, I want to share 6 ways to
be more productive in writing.

14. Juggle Multiple Projects


If you write about the same topic all the time, you will get bored even if you are
really passionate about that topic. Eventually this leads to less productivity.

One way to avoid this situation is to juggle multiple projects in a day. In other
words, switch back and forth between tasks. If you are tired of writing one
topic, then switch to another project. Bob Bly says, “Arrange your daily schedule
“How so you switch off from one assignment to another at least once or twice each
ambitious day. Variety, as the saying goes, is indeed the spice of life.”
should you
be? What if 15. Set Ambitious Goals
“Most people do not set their sights high enough,” says a productive copywriter
you could Bob Bly in his book 101 Ways to Make Every Second Count. “Do not use the
use Albert average workers as a role model for productivity.” I really agree with him. Here
Einstein as a is why: have you ever known people who accomplished 100% of their goals?
The answer is probably no. The idea is that, since we accomplish our goals less
role model?” than 100%, if you set more ambitious goals, we end up with accomplishing
more.

How ambitious should you be? What if you could use Albert Einstein as a role
model? The physicist has published at least 4 seminal papers in 1905 at age 26,
including a paper on special relativity. Maybe you can use his accomplishments
as a role model for productivity. Crazy? But you never know. You may end up

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with accomplishing a couple of major goals in just one year. But unless you
don’t have that kind of ambitious intension, you will never think about it and
therefore you cannot achieve it.

Another example: did you know Isaac Asimov wrote 515 books and Georges
Simenon wrote about 450+ books? If you set an ambitious goal such as
publishing 300 books, I may end up with publishing 5 books or even 50 books.
That would be great. On the other hand, if you set a seemingly doable goal such
as publishing a book, you may end up with publishing no book. The difference
here is that the former is ambitious and exciting, while the latter is just what
most people have in mind. Bob Bly believes that in order to be productive, you
need to set ambitious goals. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious. So
have many goals.

16. Manage Information Overload


Because of the Internet, we live in the world of information overload, and
information is rapidly increasing. Today no one can read all the books out there;
“Productive no one can gather all the information about even one single topic. Furthermore,
writers know we are perpetually exposed to advertisements through web sites, blogs, emails,
TV shows, magazines, and so on. As a result, we become so frustrated.
time is
a precious
We have to manage information overload. How? There are many ways to
commodity.” do that: Start being selective about what you read. Select only two or three
magazines in your specific field. Spend less time in reading and writing emails
or blogs. Unsubscribe some ezines. Stop watching TV shows. You can stop
reading even newspapers. It will not kill you. If something very important
happens, people will tell you about it.

If you manage information overload and reduce unproductive time, you can
create more productive time and therefore write faster. It’s a simple formula.

17. Delegate and Outsource


Productive writers know that time is a precious commodity and that time is
more valuable than money. They don’t try to do all of their noncrucial tasks;
they simply do what they do best and outsource the rest.

So, it is a good idea for you to delegate some noncrucial tasks to someone so that
you can create more productive hours. You can start small. Just spend a little bit

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25 Keys to Write Better and Faster From Scratch Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

of your money to save a little bit of your time. For example, have someone run
errands for you, wash your cars, mow your lawn, and so on. Pay extra money
any time you can to save any amount of time.

18. Keep Your Mouth Shut


“If A equals success, then A = X + Y + Z. X is work, Y is play, and Z is keeping
your mouth shut,” said Albert Einstein. If you are talking about it, you are
not writing it. It is that simple. Furthermore, talking tends to eliminate your
motivation to write. Productive writers rather shut up, sit down, and start
writing. On the other hand, non-productive writers tend to be chatting and end
up with accomplishing less.

A best-selling author Robert Ringer is right when he says, “If you’ve got
something good going, shut up!” “The nice thing is that the more you succeed,
the more reason you have to feel secure, which should result in your having
less of an urge to talk about your plans and more of a desire to produce results.”
Robert Ringer thinks that the best way to write faster is to create large blocks of
uninterrupted time (at least four hours) for high-level concentration every single
day.

19. Use Familiar Words


If you use unfamiliar words, chances are that you stop, open a dictionary, and
start searching for words. And you end up with being distracted and losing
your momentum. Since writing is a painful job that requires total concentration,
once you lose that concentration, you have to create it all over again. This is
inefficient.

The solution? Use short, familiar words. This strategy saves time and energy
and therefore increases your productivity. When you use familiar words, you
don’t need a dictionary most of the time; hence, you can concentrate on your
writing more easily.

Bob Bly says that the reason why Isaac Asimov and Georges Simenon
were prolific was that they used short, familiar words and avoided long,
unfamiliar words. As I mentioned, Isaac Asimov wrote 515 books; Georges
Simenon, about 450 books or more.

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4
Part
How to Make
Your Paragraphs Flow

H ave you ever been frustrated by seeing an awkward transition from a


paragraph to the next paragraph and not knowing how to fix it? I myself
really wanted to know how to fix it and how to make paragraphs flow
naturally. In Part IV, I want to share 5 easy ways to do this. I’m not a natural
writer, but these 5 techniques do work for me and I think they will work for
you. Here they are:

20. Make Your Writing Move towards Only One Direction


It is wise to avoid long transitions because long transitions tend to distract your
“… these 5 reader. Paragraph by paragraph, the logical progression of your writing should
help your reader to walk through towards only one direction (i.e., your main
techniques points), and not hold them back. To put it simply, organize your writing in a
do work for straightforward way.

me and I
think they An effective way to do this is to pick up your topic sentences, outline them,
and see how your writing is organized. If you are like me, you will have to
will work reorganize the structure of your writing. That’s fine. Then, to create natural
for you.” transitions between paragraphs, you can use transition phrases such as,
“However,” “On the other hand,” “Another reason is,” “In addition to,” “To
understand this,” “For instance,” and so on. You can also use bridge words as
I will mention later.

21. Avoid Side Issues


Don’t try to include everything. “An article is not everything that’s true. It’s
every important thing that’s true,” said Gary Provost. And that’s true. Your
reader can be distracted by side issues; because, like it or not, the reader is not
so tolerant as you might assume. So eliminating side issues is crucial to make
your writing flow. If you find any sentence that doesn’t support a topic sentence,

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25 Keys to Write Better and Faster From Scratch Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

it is a good idea to cross it off. By the same token, if you find any paragraph that
is not directly linked to your main points, you can eliminate that paragraph
completely. In other words, don’t include it in the first place.

22. Use a Topic Sentence per Paragraph


Using a topic sentence in a paragraph is an effective way to make your writing
clear and strong. Once you determine which sentence is your topic sentence,
the function of the rest of the sentences is to support that topic sentence. This is
important. If a particular sentence doesn’t seem to support your topic sentence,
that means that particular sentence can be eliminated from your paragraph. By
doing this, you eliminate side issues.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to use topic sentences all the time. If you
break a long paragraph into two or three ones, they might not have a topic
“The sad sentence. Shorter paragraphs may have no topic sentence; longer paragraph may
have two topic sentences. But in general, you include one topic sentence in a
thing is that paragraph, while you may break this rule occasionally.
monotonous
writing is 23. Use Short Paragraphs
boring. Even It is a good idea to use short paragraphs occasionally. Why? Because it gives
your reader a short break. Ongoing long paragraphs tend to be overwhelming
in academic and boring. On the other hand, people are pleased to read a short paragraph if
writing, you it is concisely packed. Also, effective use of short paragraphs creates rhythm in
your writing. And that’s a good thing.
need variety.”
24. Vary sentence lengths.
Varying sentence lengths is good because it creates rhythm. The sad thing
is that monotonous writing is boring. Even in academic writing, you need
variety. Variety. You use short sentences. Most of the time, you can use medium
sentences. But sometimes you can use a long, carefully crafted sentence to
grab reader’s attention, let them concentrate on the subject, and create a magic
moment – a moment when, even if they know they just read black ink on a
piece of white paper, they forget about it and cannot help but keep reading.
So create rhythm.

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25. Use Bridge Words


Using a bridge word can sometimes help you to create a natural transition.
What is a bridge word exactly? A bridge word is a word that appears both in
the last sentence of a paragraph and in the first sentence of the next paragraph.

Here is an example:

…Together, these changes strengthen the synaptic connections the neurons.


If glutamate produces a strong enough response or excitation in a neuron, the nerve
impulse can pass along to the next neuron and the next…(C&EN, Sept 3, page 10, 2007)

The last sentence of one paragraph ends with “…Together, these changes
strengthen the synaptic connections the neurons.” Then, the first sentence of
the next sentence starts with “If glutamate produces a strong enough response
or excitation in a neuron, the nerve impulse can pass along to the next neuron
and the next…” See? Using a bridge word neuron gives a natural transition here.
So next time you write, spend a little time in considering whether or not you
can use a bridge word in your writing.

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Bonus Tip:
5 Steps to Write an Abstract
of a Scientific Paper

H
ave you ever struggled with writing the Abstract of your paper? I have
read dozens of books on scientific writing and academic writing; but I
could not find a simple solution to this task. Through many mistakes and
failures, I have got to the point where I can summarize 5 steps to do this
intimidating task, i.e., writing the Abstract of your paper. This task will be
easier if you follow these 5 steps.

“… here’s the But before I mention, here’s the most important rule: Write the main body
first. Then, and only then, write the Abstract. “I should mention that some
most experienced writers prepare their title and Abstract after the paper is written,
important even though by placement these elements come first,” says Robert A. Day, the
author of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. And that’s true. OK. Let us
rule: look at these 5 steps.
Write the
main body Step 1: Write why you have done it
first.” Write motivation or background of your work. In other words, write the
reason why you have done it. If you find it difficult to write motivation or
background, then go back and ask yourself, why have I done this research?
Is it because your research is an urgent issue? Is it because it will have a high
impact on a specific field? Is it because it is a long-sought topic in the history of
science? You get the idea. You have done it for some reason. When you write
motivation or background, it is acceptable to try to reach as wide audience as
possible. Remember, if your audience reads the first sentence and then lose their
interests, they may not read any further.

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Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

Step 2: Write how you have done it


Next, briefly write how you have done your research. Write your computational
methods or experimental designs and settings. However, do not try to include
every detail because it will distract the reader.

Step 3: Write major results


Write your major results or summary; but again, do not try to include
everything. You may have many results you want to mention. In your Abstract,
however, you pick up only two or three important results of your work.
“…the main Alternatively, it would be even better to write the single most important result
out of the three. As you can see, the process of Step 3 is much easier after you
purpose have already written the main body of your research paper.
of your
Abstract is to Step 4: Write outlook or implications of your work
get potential Write outlook, benefits, or implications. Or write why and how your work has
an impact on current scientific knowledge. This is an important point. Because,
audience like it or not, your reader has one question in mind: “What’s in it for me?” So
actually read you have to answer to this question in your Abstract. Remember, the main
purpose of your Abstract is to get potential audience actually read your paper.
your paper.” To do so you not only write your conclusions but also include outlook, benefits,
or implications reasonably derived from you work.

Step 5: Rewrite for brevity


Rewrite for brevity. After you have done Steps 1–4, now is the time to rewrite.
Most Abstracts are limited to 100–200 words, depending your target journal.
Therefore, you should be short and concise sentence by sentence, word by word.
You can do this by (1) eliminating unnecessary words, (2) using short, familiar
words, (3) avoiding jargons, terminologies, and references, and (4) using simple
sentence structures.

At the same time, please keep in mind what Quintus Horatius Flaccus, a Roman
poet, said: Brevis esse laboro, Obscurus fio. Which means, if you try hard to be
succinct, you merely become obscure. Be careful about that.

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25 Keys to Write Better and Faster From Scratch Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.

More Information

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practical information at affordable cost for everyone who is willing to learn
scientific writing, which will eventually improve scientific communications in
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in plain English so that everyone can learn easily and quickly.

Teppei Suzuki, Ph.D.


www.ScientificWritingGuide.com

If you have any questions or suggestions, send me an email at:


teppei.suzuki@gmail.com.

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