Monthly Archives: August 2014

Abstract, Summary, or Introduction? A 5-Question Method for Writing Abstracts

The instructions for submitting a paper to your professional organization require that you write a 200-word abstract. Your team’s template for technical reports requires an executive summary. Or you would like to write an introduction to a paper or report. But what is the difference between an abstract, an executive summary, and an introduction? And how do you write each? Let’s explore the answers to those questions, beginning with the abstract.

A well-written abstract is a succinct, cohesive stand-alone overview or preview of a formal paper or report that allows readers to quickly determine whether the paper/report’s topic and scope are of interest and suit their purposes. The title and abstract differentiate the paper/report from all other papers/reports on the same topic. An abstract is usually one paragraph and contains neither illustrations nor footnotes.

The abstract may be published in a list of papers for a formal professional conference, on a web page to attract readers, or in a database to allow archiving and retrieval. The publishing or archiving organization will typically stipulate the length and style of their abstracts. Their writer’s guide and website will provide examples. A common length is from 150 to 300 words. The style will be informative or indicative: Read more ›


CLARITY CLINIC—2 Tips to Sharpen Pronoun Use

Top-level writers edit carefully before sending email or submitting documents. One area of attention—that the spelling and grammar checker may miss—is effective pronoun use. Using pronouns (such as he/him, she/her, it, we/us, and they/them) can improve sentence flow and cohesion. But careless pronoun use can weaken a message and confuse readers. So that your sentences communicate the emphasis and meaning you intend and can be read once and immediately understood, let’s explore two tips for effective pronoun use:

1.    Use a precise noun to name a person, place, thing, or idea  before replacing the noun with a pronoun.  Repeat nouns you want to emphasize, and re-introduce nouns when you begin a new paragraph. Find a nice balance between never using pronouns (which sounds stilted) and using too many pronouns (which sounds weak). Read more ›


How to Use Your Computer’s Readability Statistics Scores—Grade Level

You’ve enabled your Readability Statistics feature in Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar Checker and evaluated a sample document. But based on your Grade Level scores, what action should you take?

Readability scores are helpful editing tools for writers of too-long sentences. Recall from the Clarity Clinic that our goal is to write sentences that can be read once and immediately understood. Readable documents are more apt to be read in their entirety, and their content is more apt to be remembered. Readability indictors include:

  1. The number of sentences in each paragraph.
  2. The number of words in each sentence.
  3. The number of syllables in each word.

The Spelling and Grammar Checker’s Readability Statistics feature provides Passive Sentences, Reading Ease, and Grade Level scores, which help you gauge the readability level of your documents. A high Passive Sentences or Grade Level score and a low Reading Ease score signal opportunities to edit sentences. Let’s explore the difference between grade/reading level and education level and how to use the Grade Level score: Read more ›