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Q&A: What kind of sentences are preferred in scientific writing - long or short?

As non-native speakers of English, we tend to prefer longer and fancier sentences when writing in English. For instance, if I search for the English translation of a Chinese term, I will get many options but would prefer to use the one that seemed most uncommon to show that my English is good. Does this apply to scientific writing? Do editors and reviewers prefer long sentences in an English paper or short ones?

1 Answer

What matters the most in scientific writing is clarity. I don't think it is advisable to use fanciful or ornamental language in science. Rather, the focus should be on explaining yourself clearly, and the best way to do so is by using short and simple sentences. Moreover, when you use complicated sentences, the chances of making mistakes are higher. Usually, translation softwares do not always give grammatically correct results. Thus, even when using a translation software, you should use the term which you clearly understand and are sure of rather than choosing an uncommon usage.

The editor and reviewers would also prefer short and clear sentences over long and complicated ones. However, one point that you need to keep in mind is that academic writing uses a slightly formal style. Therefore, while short sentences are preferable, the sentences should not sound too causal. A good way to get an idea of the style followed in academic writing is to get into the habit of reading scholarly literature.


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