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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 28  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 180-184

A style guide for scientific writing

Freelance Certified Translator and Interpreter for German and English Languages, Izmir, Turkey

Date of Submission10-Jul-2019
Date of Acceptance16-Sep-2019
Date of Web Publication26-May-2020

Correspondence Address:
Mr. Kemal Taskiran
1832 Sokak Evin, Sitesi No. 8 Da. 13, Bahçelievler, Karsiyaka, Izmir
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tjps.tjps_65_19

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This style guide used by Kemal TAŞKIRAN, the author of the guide, for the translation of scientific manuscripts in Turkish into English includes rules compiled from several manuals, books and websites indicated below under references.

Keywords: Scientific manuscript, style guide, style manual

How to cite this article:
Taskiran K. A style guide for scientific writing. Turk J Plast Surg 2020;28:180-4

How to cite this URL:
Taskiran K. A style guide for scientific writing. Turk J Plast Surg [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Sep 22];28:180-4. Available from: http://www.turkjplastsurg.org/text.asp?2020/28/3/180/284964

  Preference for the Active Voice over the Passive Voice Top

As recommended by most medical and scientific style manuals, I prefer the active voiceover the passive voice unless there is a good reason to use the passive. I use the passive voice when the performer is unknown or when I want to focus on the action or the recipient of the action. I can also use passive voice in certain parts of a research paper, but ultimately, I aim to make about 80%–90% of my verbs active.[1]

Instead of passive expressions such as it was found that…, it was determined…, it is concluded…, it is recommended…, and it is suggested… that are frequently used in research papers in Turkey, I always use the active alternatives such as Previous research reports…, the study found/has found/…, the study determines/has determined…, and the study recommends/suggests… as widely used in scientific writing in English-speaking countries.

  Usage of Plain English Top

I use plain English to the greatest possible extent that the text to be designed allows it.

Most experts and guides, including the Plain English Guide of Oxford University, agree that an average sentence should have a length of 15–20 words. Hence, over the whole document, I also abide by this rule, making the average sentence length of 15–20 words. If, however, I find myself writing long sentences or having to reorganize long sentences in a text translated from another language or having to edit them for other people, I use one or more of the six main ways indicated below used to clarify long sentences:

  1. Split and disconnect
  2. Split and connect
  3. Say less
  4. Use a list
  5. Cut verbiage
  6. Bin the sentence and start again.[1]

As long sentences are frequently used in formal texts and research papers in Turkey, translating texts in Turkish into English, I try to use one of the six ways indicated above. If restructuring is not possible in this way, I try to reorganize the sentence in plain English to the extent possible.

  Spelling Top

I use the spelling that is effective in Britain. This also applies to the terms used in Britain (e.g., flat

[US apartment], trousers[US pants],kit[US uniform], wardrobe[US closet], parcel[US package],lorry[US truck], tap[US faucet], reception[US front desk], pitch [US sports field], full stop [US period], headmaster [US principal], chemist's [US drugstore/pharmacy], off-licence [US liquor store], queue[US line]).

I never use the US spelling unless an American speaker or an American text should be quoted (in which case the original should be kept).[2]

  Usage of the Words “research,” “study,” and “literature” Top

I use the word research, which is a mass noun, always in singular (e.g., previous research has shown…, little research has been performed…, much research on X has been done…). I never use the plural form researches, which is also sometimes used in British English but is much less frequent. To quantify the research in question, I use the word study (plural form studies).[3]

In accordance with the context, I also use the words investigation, research paper, paper, publication, research study, trial, account, essay, article to refer to a detailed study of a subject (=araştırma). I use the terms previous research, prior research, previous studies, or just research to refer to the literature or existing literature (= literatür). Ican use the words ”researcher, investigator, author, observer” to refer to someone whose job is to study a subject (=araştırmacı).

  Abbreviations, Contractions and Acronyms Top

I do not use full stops after abbreviations, contractions, and acronyms, and I always close up the space between letters.

  1. I form abbreviationsby omitting letters from the end of a word. Medical Sciences → Med Sci; Doctorate of Philosophy → DPhil
  2. I form contractions by omitting letters from the middle of a word. Mister → Mr; Doctor → Dr; Street → St
  3. I form acronyms from the initial letters of words (whether the result is pronounceable as a word or as a series of letters) in a single string of upper case letters. Master of Arts → MA; Planning and Resource Allocation Committee → PRAC;United Nations → UN
  4. When using an acronym that might be unfamiliar to readers, I spell it out in full the first time it is mentioned with the acronym following in brackets; thereafter, I use the acronym alone. This does not apply, however, to titles in scientific papers.[2]

    • The decision was made by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO is a United Nations (UN) institution that is active all over the world.

  Numbers Top

  1. I spell out the numbers from one up to and including ten and I use figures for numbers above ten. I spell out any number that begins a clause, in which case other numbers in the clause are also spelled out

    • There were three customers in the shop and four others in the courtyard.
    • Many young people have, during the past 50 years, considerably benefitted from the multi-cultural and multi-lingual aspects of European Education.
    • Twenty people, five children and fifteen adults, came to the concert.

  2. If, however, there are a lot of figures in a paragraph or sentence, in different characteristics in line with i above, I use figures throughout the sentence to facilitate comparison by readers

    • There were 3 applicants in the department and 21 others waiting in the courtyard. The queues for 3 other units had 9, 5, and 17 people.

  3. I spell out ordinal numbers from first up to and including tenth, and for larger ordinal numbers, I use “-st,” “-nd,” “-rd,” and “-th” without using superscript to prevent problems with line spacing

    • It is the first company in the country to introduce this product into the market.
    • The resolution was passed at the 14th ordinary shareholders' meeting.

  4. Percentage, measurements, and currencies: I use figures and symbols for percentages, measurements, and currencies. Should the spelled-out form of the percentage symbol (%) be used, I use the form effective in Britain (per cent/percent in the USA). After numbers written in the spelled-out form at the beginning of a clause, I use per cent in spelled-out form.

    • Fifty years ago, the top 1% of the people received about 30% of the total of net personal incomes; today, they receive only 5%.
    • Ten per cent of all the children living in rural areas have no possibility to attend elementary school.
    • Of all the children living in rural areas, 10% have no possibility to attend elementary school.[2]

  Dates Top

I always put the date before the month:

  • This year, Easter is on 13 April.
  • This year, Easter is on Saturday 13 April.[2]

I never precede the number with “the,” and I never use “th” with dates:

  • Easter this year is on the 13th April.

Decades and centuries

  1. I express decades in complete numerals without using an apostrophe between the year and the s.

  2. I write single-digit centuries in lowercased words and double-digit ones in numerals[4]
  3. During the 1980s and 1990s, the economy in Britain grew.

    • Anglo-Saxons came to Britain in the fifth century.
    • Bach lived in the 15th century.

  Defining/nondefining Information Top

  1. I do not use a comma to join two main clauses or those linked by adverbs or adverbial phrases (such as nevertheless, therefore, and however). In this case, I use either a semicolon or I add a coordinating conjunction (e.g., and, but, and so).[2]

    • Everyone was busy, so I went to the cinema alone.
    • Everyone was busy; I went to the cinema alone.
    • Everyone was busy, I went to the cinema alone (not correct).
    • I really want to go to work, but I am too sick to drive.

  2. I use a comma after an introductory adverb, adverbial phrase or subordinate clause, or use a pair of commas surrounding it if it is in the middle of a sentence.[2]

    • However, we cannot accept this kind offer. or
    • We cannot, however, accept this kind offer.
    • With all her neighbors, she proposed that a park should be built in the area.
    • She proposed, with all her neighbors, that a park should be built in the area.

  3. I do not use a comma after a time-based adverbial phrase. Otherwise, I always use a comma to join two clauses.[2]

    • After playing football all day long he was tired.
    • Whenever I hear this song I start singing.
    • In 2016 our company managed to grow by 20%.
    • Because my coffee was too cold, I heated it in the microwave.
    • Though he was very rich, he was still very unhappy.
    • As she was bright and ambitious, she became a manager in no time.
    • Wherever you go, you can always find beauty.

  Verb Tenses Used in Research Papers Top


Elements in a title

In technical and scientific writing, the title is a precise description of the contents. It should include specific words to indicate the following:

  • The topic, that is, the main, general subject you are writing about
  • The focus, that is, a detailed narrowing down of the topic into the particular, limited area of your research
  • Optionally, for a scientific article, the purpose of your writing. This means including a word such as the following, which tells the reader what kind of argumentation to expect:

Examples of title

Design of titles

  • I design the title in lower case rather than in capital letters.
  • I use capital letters for the first letter of all the main words in the title, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, longer prepositions, conjunctions
  • I do not use capital letters for short structural words (except when they are the first word of the title), such as articles (a, an, the), short prepositions (of, in, to, at), coordinating conjunctions (and, or, nor, but, for)
  • I do not use abbreviations and acronyms in the title.[5]


Generally, I use simple past (or for a concise introductory phrase the present perfect); for general statements and facts, present tense is proper to use.


  • Here I use a mixture of present and past tense;
  • I use the present tense when I am writing about something that is always true, and also when a specific result, figure or paper is the subject of a sentence.

    • The results of his study indicate that this drug is highly effective.
    • A landmark paper from Smith describes its discovery.

  • I use the past tense for earlier research efforts and for concluding statements and also methods used in a previous paper.

    • Smith and Anderson sampled 96 swamps and found 156 distinct dragonfly species.

  • If the time of the demonstration is unknown or not important, I use the present perfect.
  • I use the past perfect when talking about something that was true in the past but is no longer so.


  • Here I generally use the passive voice in the simple past.


  • I use the simple past to refer to the findings and the perfect tense for cited information.
  • The present tense is also acceptable in such statements as “We can conclude that ….”


  • Simple past and present tense should be employed here.
  • But when I refer to figures and tables, I use the present tense, since they continue to exist in the paper.
  • Here I can also mix active and passive voice.

Conclusion and further work

  • I use present perfect to make clear that my statements still hold at the time of reading;
  • For further work, the future tense (or the present) is acceptable.[6]

  Verbs Which Are Common in Academic Texts Top

I use the following verbs to describe the research process, including its aims, processes, and results:analyze, assess, categorize, conduct, examine, find, investigate, measure, select, use,

The table below lists verbs that are very common in academic texts. The verbs listed are not mere synonyms of one another; there are shades of difference in their meaning. Therefore, I always choose the most appropriate one for my own context.[7]

  No Contractions Top

As recommended in most manuals, I always avoid using contractions in scientific writing, except for under the following circumstances:

  1. If I directly quote a sentence that contains a contraction
  2. If I write about contractions, for example, in a research paper about language
  3. If I use an idiom that contains a contraction
  4. If I am making an informal remark in harmony with the otherwise formal wording of a text.[8]

  Phrasal Verbs Top

I always avoid using phrasal verbs (two-word verbs) in academic writing and use one-word formal verbs. The following table lists some of such verbs.[1]

  Nonsexist Usage Top

I always try to avoid sexist usage. Using sex-neutral terms means avoiding words which suggest that maleness is the norm or superior or positive, and that femaleness is nonstandard, subordinate, or negative. The following list contains some examples in this respect[1]

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Cutts M. Oxford Plain English Guide. Oxford University Press 1996.  Back to cited text no. 1
Oxford Style Guide. Available from: https://ox.ac.uk. [Last accessed on 2019 Jul 08].  Back to cited text no. 2
American Journal Experts. Available from: https://www.aje.com. [Last accessed on 2019 Jul 09].  Back to cited text no. 3
Available from: ErinWright/erinwrightwriting.com/https://erinwrightwriting.com/how-to-write-centuries/. [Last accessed on 2019 Jul 09].  Back to cited text no. 4
Writing in English: A Practical Handbook for Scientific and Technical Writer, European Commission. Available from: https://grow.tecnico.ulisboa.pt. [Last accessed on 2019 Jul 10].  Back to cited text no. 5
Malcolm A. Moore and Hiroyuki Tsuda England, Asian Pacific Education Press 2003.  Back to cited text no. 6
University of Toronto. Available from: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca. [Last accessed on 2019 Jul 10].  Back to cited text no. 7
APA Style Blog. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Available from: https://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2015/12/contractions-in-formal-writing-whats-allowed-whats-not.html. [Last accessed on 2019 Jun 09].  Back to cited text no. 8


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