Scientific writing

Several principles for good writing:

  • Most readers expect the action of a clause to be found in a verb. If you fail to put your intended action in a verb, then the reader has to work to determine where the action is.
  • Put characters in subjects. The character is the actor, the entity performing the action. Readers expect the main character in a clause to be found in the subject.
  • Writing is easier to follow when the string of subjects in a paragraph reflects the topics. Paragraph units are most effective when they either 1) discuss a single topic; 2) discuss a series of related topics that build on one another.

Fulfill the readers’ expectation. There are two ways to achieve this:

  • Maintain a common subject throughout a one-topic paragraph;
  • Shift the subject appropriately according to the story
  • Keep subjects near verbs. Reader are constantly looking for the answers to the following two questions:
    • 1) who is the sentence about?
    • 2) What are they doing?


  • Put new information last. Most readers will find your writing more clear if you consistently begin sentences with familiar information and conclude sentences with unfamiliar information.
  • Use passive voice judiciously. Use passive voice when it moves the old information to the front and new information to the back.
  • Make sure the first and last sentences of a paragraph match.
  • Readers usually expect thoughts to be expressed in paragraph units. Make sure that each sentence in a paragraph supports the main point of the paragraph.