English Writing Tips

What tense to use?

  • Present tense: for already established discoveries.
  • Future tense: for works that you will do.
  • Past tense: for results of experiment presented in this paper.

Past tense

Work done We collected blood samples from . . . Groves et al. determined the growth rate of . . . Consequently, astronomers decided to rename . . . Work reported Jankowsky reported a similar growth rate . . . In 2009, Chu published an alternative method to . . . Irarrázaval observed the opposite behavior in . . . Observations The mice in Group A developed, on average, twice as much . . . The number of defects increased sharply . . . The conversion rate was close to 95% . . .

Present tense

General truths Microbes in the human gut have a profound influence on . . . The Reynolds number provides a measure of . . . Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease . . . Atemporal facts This paper presents the results of . . . Section 3.1 explains the difference between . . . Behbood’s 1969 paper provides a framework for . . .

Future tense

Perspectives In a follow-up experiment, we will study the role of . . . The influence of temperature will be the object of future research . . .


Several tenses can be used. The tense you would use largely depends on the subject of your sentence. As a general rule:

  • Any statements of general fact should be written using the present tense.
  • Any discussion about prior research should be explained using the past tense.
  • If the subject of your sentence is your study or the article you are writing (e.g. “Our study demonstrates…,” or “Here, we show…”), then you should use the present tense.
  • If you are stating a conclusion or an interpretation, use the present tense.
  • If the subject of your sentence is an actual result or observation (e.g. “Mice in Group B developed…”), you would use the past tense.

Space usage


数字和单位之间需要一个空格。 Exceptions:notation of angles: degree (e.g., 30°), minute of arc (e.g., 22′), and second of arc (e.g., 8″).

数学符号与单词之间的空格 数学符号(±, =, <, >, ≤, ≥, +, −, ÷, ×, ·, ≈, ∼, ∩, ∫, Π, Σ, and |) 前后需要留有空格,该空格不是普通的空格,是


Tips for choosing words

Be precise

Avoid lazy phrase:”gives important insight into”

The signal of gene A and gene B was near => The signals of gene A and gene B were close

Be specific

mouse not animal

increased not changed

Gene A is required for normal development

Gene A is required for plant normal development

Gene A is required for the normal development of rice

Be simple

used not utilized

before use not prior to use

begin not commence or initiate

Be necessary

we found gene A varied not gene A was examined and found to vary

Phylogenetic analysis showed that not Based on phylogenetic analysis, we showed that

Use active verbs

the mouse consumed oxygen at a higher rate ...

rather than oxygen was consumed by the mouse at a higher rate ...

Do not use contractions

Use it is, cannot, does not rather than it's, can't, doesn't

Put important words first

A significant reduction of gene A expression was detected by RT-PCR analysis.

rather than

By RT-PCR analysis, we found a significant reduction of gene A exoression.

Better expression

  • one remaining question => one outstanding issue (悬而未决的问题)
  • interestingly => unexpectedly (avoid emotional words)
  • not found => undetected
  • the decreased expression => the expression reduction
  • A similar trend was observed => We observed a similar trend (尽量用主动而非被动)
  • Reduced expression than => Reduced expression as compared to

Other notes

  • Some verbs require that the following verb is in -ing form

    {enjoy, avoid, succeed in, finish, keep, mind, practice, risk} + verb-ing

  • Useful verbs:

    represent, analyze, compare, demonstrate, illustrate, summarize, conclude, list, define, report, model, implement, design, consider, involve, simplify, generalize, perform, be based on sg., take into account sg, increase, decrease, evaluate, predict, assign, require, satisfy, …

list, and, “,”

Frequently occurring mistakes

Incorrect Correct Why?
Further, the chance of bias is high. Furthermore, the chance of bias is high. Further does not mean “in addition”; **furthermore **does
The amount of variables may change. The number of variables may change. Use number with countable nouns (e.g., changes), amount with non-count nouns (e.g., air).
A MRI, **a HR **directive An MRI, an HR directive An abbreviation that starts with a vowel sound takes “an.”
The teenagers that The teenagers who Use who with people, that with things
Politic Political Both economic and political factors were considered.
Are both similar Are similar Although the two cases are similar, they are not identical.
So called…, factor based… So-called…, factor-based… The so-called experts only conducted factor-based analyses.
Specially Especially The authors were especially interested in inflation pressures.
First of all, firstly First First, all participants were given a survey.
However … However, … However, most theorists disagree.
Like Such as Northern cities such as Oslo and Helsinki have long, dark winters.
Besides, Next to In addition to In addition to building dams, the government also invested in roads.
From…till… From…to… The ages ranged from 18 to 24.
In the light of In light of The test was cancelled in light of the wind.
Per By The participants were grouped by height.
To what extend To what extent It is not known to what extent the subjects were being truthful.
A person…their… A person…his or her (or his/her) A researcher should cite his or her sources.
You… One… If one reads the study, one may indeed be convinced


Insights into

divide into


choose - chose - chosen

send - sent - sent


Research 是不可数名词,搭配 is or was

analysis - analyses (pl.)

hypothesis - hypotheses (pl.)

criterion - criteria (pl.)

datum - data (pl.)


Incorrect Correct Example
Results Of The Interviews Results of the interviews or Results of the Interviews Additional information is presented in Table 9 (Results of the interviews).

Nouns/noun phrases

Incorrect Correct Example
MNC’s, PC’s MNCs, PCs Most MNCs purchase thousands of PCs annually.
One criteria One criterion Although many criteria were considered, one criterion stood out
Research conclusion Research conclusions Chapter 6 contains the research conclusions.
Taxi’s, umbrella’s Taxis, umbrellas Taxis are often full of forgotten umbrellas.
The childs behavior, the parents attitude The child’s behavior, the parents’ attitude Although the child’s behavior was aggressive, her parents’ attitude was very relaxed.

Punctuating numbers

Incorrect Correct Example
10.000,00 10,000.00 The price was exactly $10,000.00.
1960’s 1960s Many styles of music emerged in the 1960s.


Incorrect Correct Example
A couple of A few, two/three, a handful of A few controversial questions were also included.
A lot of Many, much, several, a great deal of Much time was spent on the test.

Terms used in citations

Incorrect Correct Example
Et al, Et all. Et al. The mutation is thought to be widespread (Han et al., 1999)
Et al. has Et al. have Omar et al. have asserted that the effect is temporary.

Verbs/phrasal verbs

Incorrect Correct Example
Lead yesterday Led yesterday Although the Liberals currently lead in the polls, the Conservatives led last week.
Make a photo Take a photo The time was set to take photos at 20-second intervals.


How to tackle academic writing?

Spacing With Mathematical Symbols

Typesetting the Space Between Characters, Words, and Sentences

Effective Writing

Which Tense Should Be Used in Abstracts: Past or Present?


Pursuing the dream and the best future

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