Writing a journal article

Phrases to use and phrases to avoid

Through time, you will develop your own writing style, and that’s a good thing. However, there are certain phrases that help in writing, and others that should be avoided. Here is a short list of them; presumably very incomplete, but nevertheless a starting point.

Like xyz such as xyz
(e.g. xyz)
Etc. spell out and end the list with ‘and’ or ‘or’
A number of Several or many; ideally list the actual number if possible
But (at beginning of sentence) However, …
… while … … whereas … (use ‘while’ only in a temporal context)
… as … … because … (use ‘as’ only in a temporal context)
In contrast, … By contrast, … (though ‘in contrast’ is not technically wrong)
For example, …For instance, …
Furthermore, …
In addition, …
Notably, …
Surprisingly, …
About, roughly Approximately

See also:

Possible exercises:
  • Find papers from Trends in Ecology and Evolution, published between 2005 and 2010; and papers published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment; and papers from Conservation Biology.
  • You can even download a ‘style manual’ for Conservation Biology.
  • The three journals differ in style, but all are professionally sub-edited, so they all contain examples of modern, professional, scientific writing.
  • Are there phrases that you find when gleaning through these papers that might help your writing?

You may also find the following links useful — they highlight verbs that are typically useful in research communications.





Additional useful “transition phrases” are available here:



1 Comment »

  1. Rather than: “There is an increasingly alarming development in ecological indicators…”
    Jörn suggested: “Global ecological indicators suggest continuing envinromental degradation…”
    So “There is..” could be replaced by a more simple direct phrase. This refers to point (1) in the section ‘Structure: the sentence’ which says: “The most important notion comes first and tells you what the sentence is about”.

    Comment by nhoberg — February 15, 2012 @ 10:58 am | Reply

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