Twelve Tips for Terrific Texts: Tip #12 – Consistency (Polishing stage)

Here is my last scicomm series tip: “consistency.”

There are many options in English spelling and grammar. It can be confusing, and I know I spend a significant amount of time looking things up on Google when I’m editing. So my last bit of advice is this: if you’re unsure about which style is best, just pick one and stick with it. Someone may correct you or ask you to go with a different style (eg, if you submit to a journal and they ask you to make changes to match their house style), and that’s okay. As long as you are consistent with how you do something, it isn’t too much of a chore to adapt to suit another style.

One of the more distracting things for readers to deal with is inconsistent spelling and grammar. For example, if you like Oxford commas and your style guide doesn’t clearly recommend for or against, go ahead and use them – but use them every time! Be consistent!

Hidden within this tip is the flip side – be consistent, but don’t be afraid of change. The English language has changed dramatically over the centuries, and continues changing today. We must continue to adapt in order to communicate effectively!

Thank you for reading my tips, and I hope they help you! I will release a one page cheat sheet with all the tips together, so keep an eye out for that!

Communicating your science: Polishing: consistency. When in doubt, pick a spelling or a style (Oxford comma, anyone?) and stick with it until you’re told otherwise.

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