I have submitted a manuscript to a reputable journal, the article was rejected because it didn't pass the grammar check. The journal editor also mentioned the low quality of the figures.

My ex-supervisors never trained me how to write a research article. I would be grateful for recommendations to improve my writing style.

  • 3
    Becoming a good writer in general is hard, taking lots of practice. Becoming a good scientific writer is even harder, since the style of a journal tends to be quite different from the style taught by English teachers. – Jon Custer Oct 24 '18 at 22:49
  • @JonCuster I think you have to have a sound basis in "standard" persuasive writing before you can become a good technical writer. – aeismail Oct 25 '18 at 1:43
  • Peer review is the answer here. Get good, picky peers to criticise your work, listen to them, and keep doing it. You'll get there without realising. – Scientist Nov 8 '18 at 18:03

The issue here isn't writing a paper in a "more scientific" way; it's just writing more correctly and precisely. To be brutally honest, the writing in the original draft of this question is so poor that I would immediately reject any article written in such a style. It's not merely technical writing: there are problems with basic usage, grammar, and syntax.

The best way to improve is probably to work with a competent and experienced writing tutor who can help you identify the mistakes you are making and how to fix them. However, this is unlikely to be a "quick fix" unless you are willing to devote substantial time and effort to make your writing better.

Online tools like Grammarly can attempt to point out problems but they are neither completely reliable nor, in the long term, suitable substitutes for personally understanding the guiding principles of standard persuasive or technical writing.

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    Take English language classes at your university/employer? That's not a quick fix, but then there is no quick fix to becoming good at a language. It just takes time. – Wolfgang Bangerth Oct 24 '18 at 22:57
  • 7
    @Monika I don't think that your feeling about fluency is true. Even while writing the question and the comment above, you have committed grammer and style mistakes. High TOFEL score doesn't necessarily imply a very good command on English. – Peaceful Oct 25 '18 at 1:09
  • 1
    I think these answers seem to be destructive rather than being constructive. You can give an advice in a decent manner if you have noticed grammar and style, why you don't try to edit it instead of these sketchy comments. – user39171 Oct 25 '18 at 1:32
  • 5
    @Monika Because the actual answer to the question really is that your English is not up to par for publishing papers. Just editing your sentences would not have conveyed this information to you. While it is not nice to be told that your English is not as good as you thought, it would not be any help to you to be told otherwise only to keep struggling to get papers published because they were not written properly. – Tobias Kildetoft Oct 25 '18 at 10:07
  • 3
    @Monika in my institution, there is a place called "academic writing center" in which you take an appointment and review the text in terms of its English. Find such a place. Also, you need to use Grammarly like tools with caution. Grammarly is not a tool to improve your grammar, it just quickens the check. If you try to get advice from academicians directly, they will give you advices similar to the ones here, so do not get upset. – user91300 Oct 25 '18 at 11:46

The problem is not your writing style, it is your writing itself. Your English is not up to scratch. From the original question you wrote, first two paragraphs:

I have submitted my manuscript to a reputable journal and I had received rejection as the the file didnot pass the grammar test in addition to the quality of the figures.

To be honest, I have never get a help from my supervisor either in master or ex-PI during the first year of PhD to write in a scientific manner, although I was reading many times, but I feel yet not confident.

I highlighted issues with your text:

  • duplicated 'the'
  • 'didnot' should obviously be 'did not'.
  • it's clear from the context that "in addition to the quality of the figures" actually means "in addition, the quality of the figures was not sufficient". But it's bad writing regardless since the entire sentence needs to be read before the phrase gives the right meaning (without the context it actually implies the figures are of high quality).
  • you cannot get 'a help'. You get 'help'.
  • 'in master' should be 'during my masters'; 'ex-PI' presumably not necessary since during the first year of your PhD your ex-PI is probably your supervisor also, i.e. write "... from my supervisor either during my masters or first year of PhD".
  • past continuous tense is clearly inappropriate, use present perfect: "although I have read many papers".
  • "yet not confident" is artistic writing appropriate in poetry and such but not in scientific writing: "...but I do not feel confident yet".

There's no easy solution to this; you'll simply have to learn English better. If your institution offers classes in English or assistance with writing, utilize those. Otherwise, you will probably have to self-educate, with books on English grammar.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks, Allure for your detailed answer, and you are right I have to learn English again! However, my school doesn't offer English classes. BTW, the question has been edited. – user39171 Oct 25 '18 at 2:03
  • Perhaps your wider university or your wider society offers classes or language exchanges or ... – user2768 Oct 25 '18 at 11:31

I do not think there is going to be any substitute for competent, sustained feedback. I understand you do not have access to English writing classes.

The best help is going to be to find a friend or colleague who is good at written English, and is willing to help you. Initially, anyone who can write well should be able to help. Later, you will need specific advice on writing papers from someone with a good publication track record.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks for your advice! It is really awkward how I am bad at written English! I never get a support from my ex-supervisors to proofread my drafts. With a reference to the comments I received here, it seems that I am really really bad at English and this demoralized me, I am looking for another supervisor who might help me. – user39171 Oct 25 '18 at 3:44
  • 2
    A supervisor who cares about their students' writing would be ideal. My PhD advisor used a lot of red ink on my early drafts, and would discuss why he thought each change improved the paper. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 25 '18 at 3:50
  • I wish I can find a supervisor like yours. – user39171 Oct 25 '18 at 4:04