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How to Improve Your English in Scientific Papers
... There are many tools available on the web to help you write better academic English

How to Improve Your English in Scientific Papers

While the way we use words can be fast and loose in a short sms or in an e-mail to a friend, when scientists report on the results of their research or studies, there are many issues that must be considered before sending off the final manuscript.

Fortunately, there are some excellent resources available on the world wide web to make this task slightly less daunting.

Here are some e-tools that I use every day in scientific editing.

1. Dictionary

Depending on whether you use US- or UK-based English, you will need to make sure that the grammar and spelling you use are correct. (In Asia, we usually conform to the US rulesknown as English (U.S.) in Microsoft Word; the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are some of the main users of English (U.K.).

For US spelling è         Merriam-Webster Online  - For checking on US spelling, this site is easy to use and has a separate Medical Dictionary tab. It is a part of the Encyclopædia Britannica Group.

Where: http://nws.merriam-webster.com/opendictionary/  or just www.M-W.com

Once you have entered the site and clicked in the Dictionary box, all you have to do is type (or paste) the word you are interested in and hit the Enter key or click on the red magnifying glass to the right of the word entry box.

So after typing in ubiquitous (one of the 10 most frequently looked up words according to Merriam-Webster) and hitting the Enter key or click on the red magnifying glass to the right of the word entry box you get a definition and much more.

In addition to a definition you get:

·        the pronunciation  - click on the blue loudspeaker icon

·        the word type (adjective in this case)

·        how to use the word as an adverb and a noun

·        the emphasis (ubiq·ui·tous = 3 syllables)

·        examples of its use

·        the origin of the word

·        related synonyms (words that mean the same) and antonyms (words that mean the opposite)




 UK Spelling è Cambridge Dictionaries Online The Advanced Learners Dictionary is an excellent source of the UK spelling.

Where:  http://dictionary.cambridge.org/

Once you have entered the site and clicked in the white box to the left of the blue Look it up button, all you have to do is type (or paste) the word you are interested in and hit the Enter key or click on the blue Look it up button.


You can also select other options from the second box that has a pick list





The listing for ubiquitous is similar to the Merriam-Webster listing.

Note that you can hear the English pronunciation with an accent that is either UK (red loudspeaker icon) or US (blue loudspeaker icon).

There are additional resources available by clicking on any of the blue text in the dot points to the right of the screen.

Cambridge Dictionaries say they are updating their website, so it may change its appearance soon!


Getting Help from the Web with English Grammar

As well as help through the dictionary links above, you can also get useful advice on many aspects of understanding and using English grammar form the world wide web.

Many universities have developed material to help students improve their skills at writing effective English and this material can also be very useful to English language students.

1.        The Chicago Manual of Style

For those writing in US English, the Chicago Manual of Style Online provides a range of useful material at


 The first edition as a book was produced in 1969, while more recent editions, including the most recent (the 16th edition) have been made available both electronically and in paper form.


The Manual is published by the University of Chicago Press and is used internationally as a standard for many scientific publications.

While the Manual in either form must be purchased, there is free access to a feature called Chicago Style Q&A that provides answers to a wide range of questions about using English correctly, especially  in academic situations.



You can browse many topics to see if your question has already been asked.





Here is an example of the usefulness (and the sense of humor) provided in the practical advice.

2. The OWL at Purdue

This strange sounding site at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/ is really an abbreviation for the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, whose main campus is at West Lafayette, Indiana.

This website contains work exercises for grammar, guidance on writing an essay or scientific paper  and perhaps most usefully for people who are writing in English as a second language (ESL), there are many dedicated resources.


These resources can be accessed by clicking on the orange menu list of words on the left hand side of the main website.





The OWL helps students with many topics including:

·        The writing process

·        Academic writing including the reference section

·        The mechanics of grammar and sentences structure

·        Punctuation

Here is a sample of the information on grammar topics






And more specifically on the use of the definite and indefinite articles.






Other useful sites - using Microsoft Word


The Word Tips website has many handy hints to help you use this major workhorse for English writing.


There will be more about using Word effectively as this topic expands on the LookForest website.



Last updated: 0000-00-00 00:00:00

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