Acedemic writing workshop | week 1

Acedemic writing workshop lectured by Steven Wallace.

Also see the blog in his techinical writing editor company:


In this four-week workshop, you will learn:

  • Top nine errors that TW researchers make and lead to rejection of their papers.
  • Word choice, thesaurus
  • Habits for productive writing : 15 minutes per day
  • Dirty tricks to publish more papers (e.g. choose the right journal and customize your paper for the editors)
  • Deal with rejections and revive the failed paper.

Treat your papers like products and editors like your customers. Steven Wallace

The publication challenge

Only 11% acceptance rate for average quality papers. i.e., 8 out of 9 are rejected.

Greatest causes leading to rejection for TW researchers are

  • Poor English
  • Unclear motivation
  • Not useful, others could not benefit / extend from this study

How to fix most English errors

  • Redundency: too wordy
  • Verb tense: past vs. present vs. future
  • Too much passive voice: most journals prefer active voice nowadays

Prefer active voice to passive voice

Because active voice is generally shorter, clearer, and more direct than passive voice.

If you don’t want I and we show up too many times, you could use the study as the subject.

Situations for passive voice

  • Subject unknown / obvious / irrevalent
  • The Method section: since the subject is apparent (we)
  • The object is more important than the subject

Verb tense matters

  • past: One study. single time point Their study in 2000 showed that ...
  • present perfect: many studies (multiple time points) Previous studies have indicated that ...
  • present: facts and implications
  • future: not done, do not say that unless it is future work

Prefer verbs to nouns and strong verbs to weak verbs

e.g. make an improvement => improve

  • Eliminate weak token verbs (undergone, make, …)
  • Make the setence shorter and clearer

Stop using pronouns

Pronouns like It, they, and solitary this, that… are unclear subjects and stress the mind of readers.

It is vital that S … -> S must ...

Remember what you are comparing

AKA Apples to apples.

e.g. noun vs. noun, verb vs. verb, topic vs. topic

The device in this step has higher luminance than previous models.

Verb agreement

Is the subject singular or plural? Look carefully.

Avoid fuzzy words

They need more explanation and result in less clear sentences.

For the suggested substitudes, see the slides.

Use precise words instead of general ones

You could look up thesaurus or press [[Shift]] + [[F7]] in Microsoft Word to find words with similar meanings.

See the slides and the book for recommended replacements.

Stay motivated and write 15 minutes per day

Sourced from most prolific writers.

Establish a supply chain

  • More than one steps for one paper
  • More than one papers at a time (preferably 6-7 if you want publish once a year)
  • Target your customer, choose the journal carfully and customize your papers to the journal’s preference
  • Write a 15-minute sprint per day.
  • Not only screen time, but note / idea / script efforts matter.
  • One and only one good idea per paper. No need to make a super-sized paper.
  • Try different subtopics at the same time in case one direction fails.
  • Learn from reviews and rejections, fast .
  • Database for template sentences: copy, paste, and revise sentences. (And yes revision avoids plagiarism)
  • Make others look at your papers. One could not edit his/her own papers.

Sacrifice other interests

The most difficult part in my opinion.

When you play, play hard; when you work, don;t play at all. Theodore Roosevelt

Avoid distrations and notifications at all costs.

Practice research writings

  • Try to identify your weakness: words? grammar?
  • Imitate skillful writers and thier model papers to form a checklist for your papers
    • Best with experience author with mediocre / failed results, meaning the writing is extraordinary.

Mental models to dramatize success

Think “what you are going to get after writing”.

Although writing is no fun and everyone detests writing.

Does not work for the pessimistic.