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BIOL 312 Wildlife Ecology and Management Class Guide

Clarity and Concision in Science Writing

Active vs. passive voice:

In science writing, it is best to be clear and concise. Eliminating passive verbs is one way to increase the clarity of your writing.

The BC Writing Center provides this information of active versus passive voice:

Active voice is stronger and more direct than passive voice. Using active voice also helps eliminate unnecessary words, making the sentence clearer and easier to read. Passive voice, in contrast, can sometimes obscure the meaning of a sentence.

Active voice shows the subject doing something. 

  • Hunter threw the ball over the fence.
  • The students revised their papers. 

Passive voice shows something being done to the subject. 

  • The ball was thrown over the fence.
  • The papers were revised by the students.

Remove writing zeroes:

It is tempting to increase the word count of your paper by including phrases such as:

  • "as a matter of fact,"
  • "I would like to add,"
  • "In the course of,"
  • "It is significant to note that"

To clarify your writing, remove these phrases from your work.

Don't equivocate:

This ties into the above concept of using active and passive voice, but be clear in your writing, and where possible, trim bulky phrases into one word:

  • In light of this information → because
  • Is able to/has the potential to → can
  • There is no doubt that → no doubt 
  • Have the knowledge of → know
  • Is suggestive of → suggests

Remove redundancy:

You might be tempted to say something that you've already said in order to expand upon your ideas, but this is just making your writing redundant for your readers. Expect that your readers do not need to be reminded of topics/concepts that you have introduced elsewhere in your work.

Remove tangents:

It might seem like the extra information you learned about the tongue of a giraffe has a place in your paper about the wildlife management problem of giraffes, but this is not the case. Make sure that you stick to the topic at hand and remove tangents from your paper.

Remove adverbs:

As Stephen King wrote in On Writing: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs."