Which is correct – ‘biologic’ or ‘biological’, ‘histologic’ or ‘histological’, ‘physiologic’ or ‘physiological’? Is there a difference or can these words be used interchangeably?

Opinions regarding the use of the –ic and –ical word endings are varied and conflicting, and this issue has been hotly debated in linguistics and lexicology (Kaunisto, 2007). In 1969, the linguist Hans Marchand promoted the use of the shorter ‘-ic’ form, stating that this form was more closely linked to the root meaning of the word because it is a derivative of the noun form, whereas the ‘-ical’ form is more loosely related because it is a derivative of the adjectival form and thus more general. The 18th century linguist James Elphinston argued that the ‘-ic’ form was used more for “solemn” subjects and the ‘-ical’ form, for more “familiar” subjects. This led Marchand to comment that the ‘-ic’ form is more common in science due to its conciseness. That is, “the scholar uses the unextended forms much more, as for him the quality expressed by the adjective is more directly and intimately connected with the thing to which it [the word] is applied than it is for a non-scientist” (as cited in Kaunisto 2007 p.25).

18 Tips to Improve Your Science Writing

Communicating your experimental findings with others is your most important task as a scientist. You may make critical observations, develop ingenious hypotheses, design innovative experiments, and make important and novel discoveries – but if you cannot communicate your ideas and achievements to your colleagues, your career as a scientist will be at a standstill.

Oxford Comma

  • Punctuation is important for clarity.
  • Clarity is especially important for academic manuscripts.
  • Use the Oxford comma to increase the clarity of your science manuscript.

Proper punctuation is critical for clarity, as made very clear in the very popular book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. In this humorous book about proper punctuation, Truss cleverly demonstrates why commas are important to clarity. The giant panda eats shoots and leaves. That is, its diet comprises bamboo shoots and leaves. Improper addition of commas, however, changes the meaning of this sentence entirely, making the panda seem to be dangerous. In the following sentence, "The panda eats, shoots, and leaves.", the panda is understood to eat its meal, take aim with an arrow or weapon, and then exit the scene.

Five Simple Tips for Increasing Your Citation Number

The number and quality of citations of your papers is increasingly being used as an index for promotionsgrant review and funding, and tenure. Although this practice is somewhat controversial, having your work cited remains an important aspect of a scientist’s career. Consider these 5 simple tips to increase the number of your citations and stand out among your peers.

Formatting Your Manuscript

Abbreviations: The use of abbreviations should make reading the article easier, not more difficult.  Therefore, avoid using too many abbreviations because it will require that the reader refer to an earlier page for clarification.  In general, abbreviations should be used at least 3 times or not at all.  Abbreviations should be spelled out on first use in both the abstract and main text, and then used consistently thereafter. Check the Instructions to Authors to see if abbreviations used in the text must again be defined in the figure legends.  The more general the journal's readership, the fewer the abbreviations.

The Take Home Message

What is the Take-Home Message? And why is it important?

The Take-Home message is the one, most critical piece of information that you want the reader to retain after reading your paper. The Take-Home message is what discriminates your paper from all of the others.

One of the most important keys to getting your manuscript published is the clear presentation of your "take-home message", that is, the single most important piece of information produced by your research in this particular manuscript.  The take-home message is the succinct answer to your research question based on your findings and its relevance to the general topic. The take-home message should be clearly stated in the Abstract and in the Discussion of your manuscript. A clearly presented take-home message allows the reader to understand the importance of your research. A clearly presented take-home message will help reviewers to quickly grasp the results of your study and how they pertain to the larger questions in the field.

10 Tips to Streamline Your Writing

  1. Select the journal that best fits your research to help guide the structure of your manuscript.
  2. Create your figures early on to help you focus on the findings.
  3. Write a draft of your cover letter and/or Abstract to distill the Whys and Whats of your research.
  4. Write your Methods while performing the experiments.
  5. Write your Results in the order of your Methods.
  6. Keep it simple.
  7. Keep your Discussion focused. Your research is a broad and interesting topic, but the Discussion should be focused on this specific study.
  8. Have a colleague familiar with your research read your manuscript before finalizing it.
  9. Ask a friend who is not in your field read the manuscript to ensure its readability.
  10. Consider hiring a professional science editor to help you clearly communicate your science.

Prepositions - Small, But Important, Words!


According to the Merriam-Webster Learners Dictionary, a preposition is: “a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object”.

Prepositions express relationships such as space (place, position, direction), time, or figurative location. A preposition always has an object (usually a noun or pronoun). The preposition and its object (and any modifiers) are together called a prepositional phrase.

For example:

  • The preposition “on” in “The flask is on the lab bench” shows location.
  • The preposition “in” in “The centrifuge will finish in 3 hours” shows time.

The Use of Articles in English Writing

Learning the proper use of articles is one of the most complicated aspects of the English language for non-native English speaking scientists. Some languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, Polish, and Russian, have no articles. Arabic has only the definite article, and article use varies in German, French, and Spanish. For example, in German, articles are used differently based on the number, gender, and case of the nouns to which they refer. In English, articles are not always necessary, whereas in French and Spanish articles are used for almost every noun and, as in German, agree in gender and number with the noun with which they are used.

Effective Writing by Dr. James L. McGaugh

As the founding editor of a scientific journal (Behavioral and Neural Biology, now Neurobiology of Learning and Memory) for 25 years and as a reviewer (and author) of scientific articles for over 50 years, I have discovered much about what makes an article excellent, acceptable, or poor. Here are a few of my observations.


Selecting the Proper Journal

A major source of delay in publishing research is submitting your manuscript to the wrong journal. Many strategies can be implemented to optimize the chances of publishing your manuscript. Audience, exposure, focus, language, reputation, and time to print are all critical factors in selecting the journal in which to present your findings. The journal selection process should begin BEFORE starting the writing process. Selecting the journal before writing the manuscript will help you to tailor the manuscript to the scope and audience of the journal. Further, knowing the requirements of the journal beforehand, such as space limitations, citation formatting, and allowed abbreviations, will save you time and ensure that you have written a manuscript that is appropriate for the journal you select and therefore more likely to be selected for peer review. Six points to consider when selecting a journal are….

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