Key to Exercise on Style in Scientific Writing

This exercise requires that you identify the main stylistic problem in each excerpt. Given in Table 1 is a list of common stylistic errors that the excerpt may contain. Given in parentheses are page numbers in The Craft of Scientific Writing explaining each problem.

Table 1. List of Common Stylistic Errors
Non-parallel headings (37-40)
Weak transition into section (53)
Ambiguity from missing punctuation (94-96)
Ambiguity from pronoun (93-94)
Ambiguity from word order (92-93)
Lack of sentence variety (129-137)
Tone problem (97-101)
Needlessly complex words (84-85)
Needlessly complex noun phrase (85-86)
Needlessly complex sentence (86-90)
Run-on sentence (259-260)
Verb tense error (261)
Subject-verb disagreement (260)
Usage error (268-272)

1: Ambiguity from missing punctuation (see page 96)

Possible revision: Discharges of these hazardous substances occur through the following: (1) spills when loading vehicles, (2) spills and over-spills when filling the tanks, (3) leaks from supply pipes, and (4) pipe joints, rust holes, and cracks in the seams of the tanks themselves.

2: Lack of sentence variety (see page 129)

The design of the circuit is shown in Appendix A. The first schematic of the Appendix shows the interface of the EEPROM with the HC11. The decoder and the bit latch were also needed for this circuit. The decoder made sure that the EEPROM responded to address locations $6000 to $7FFF. The latch stored the address lines for the EEPROM when Port C on the EVBU switched from output address lines to input data lines. These integrated chips worked together to give the HC11 the expanded memory. (All the sentences begin with the subject followed by the verb.)

3: Needlessly complex noun phrase (see pages 85-86)

Possible revision (note that you would have to read the report to come up with this revision): Damping Values Necessary for Limiting Oscillations of a Boxcar Stopping System

4: Weak transition into section (see page 56)

Possible revision:
Standalone Operation. Operation of the HC11 microprocessor in the standalone mode involved both hardware and software.

5: Needlessly complex words (see pages 84-85)

Possible revision: This study will consider why current solar energy systems, such as Solar One, have not reached the commercial stage and will find out what steps we can take to make these systems commercial.

6: Tone problem (see pages 100-101)

Tonal problems indicated by boldface: It has come to my attention that your sport utility vehicles are not as technologically advanced as they could be! Microprocessors are more than just a booming technological buzzword; they are something that can be seamlessly implemented into existing vehicles and will add countless dimensions to their capabilities...These are of course tiny examples in a grander scheme of things that can be accomplished with microprocessors. There are much more useful and innovative things that could be done to improve both the mechanical and ergonomic aspects, which would put you light-years ahead of your closest competitors, all the while fattening your pockets...I enthusiastically look forward to meeting with you!

7: Needlessly complex sentence (see pages 86-87)

Possible revision: Enormous mining companies are both continuing operations at old gold mines and proposing the opening of new gold mines. An example of a mine continuing its operations is the Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota. This mine has operated continuously since 1877 and is increasing its operations [Hinds and Trautman, 1983]. An example of a proposed new gold mine is the New World Mine, whose proposed location is about 2.5 miles from the border of Yellowstone National Park, near Cooke City, Montana. Like other proposed gold mines, the New World Mine has been postponed because it is in an environmentally sensitive region.

8: Ambiguity from word order (see pages 92-93)

Possible revision: Most people with phenylketonuria are diagnosed at birth.

9: Ambiguity from pronoun (see page 93)

Possible revision: Since the invention of the catalytic converter, one problem that has baffled people involved with emission control is the converter's lack of effectiveness in oxidizing CO and HC until the engine is warm.

10: Lack of sentence variety (see page 129)

Procedures for Design. The procedures for this part of the laboratory began with the ASM command. This command was used to disassemble code. This disassembly began at the specified memory address. This command was useful in examining the code predefined by the Buffalo Disassembler. The "ASM" command was used at the start of address $E000. It listed the first three instructions at location $E000. Table 1 shows both the machine code and the disassembled code for these instructions. (All the sentences begin with the subject followed by the verb.)

11: Ambiguity from missing punctuation (see page 96)

Possible revision: To provide spill protection, all tanks were to include catchment basins and one of the following: automatic shutoff devices, overfill alarms, or ball float valves.

12: Non-parallel headings (see page 39)

Possible revision:
History of Computer Viruses

Where Do Viruses Originate?
What Damage Have Viruses Caused?
Ways to Combat Computer Viruses
Physical Barriers
Antiviral Barriers

13: Tone problem (see pages 100-101)

Tonal problems indicated by boldface: Each time we wired the hex display, we placed it in a different location on the bread board. Unfortunately, each time the hex display would show a different reading. The third time proved to be the charm as the hex display read all of the numbers correctly.

14: Weak transition into section (see page 56)

Possible revision:
Interfacing the Matrix Keyboard. This section of the laboratory assignment called for a 4x4 matrix keypad and TIL-311 hex display to be added to the hardware wired in the previous section.

15: Needlessly complex noun phrase (see pages 85-86)

This title is difficult to revise just having the title. You would have to examine the report and consider the audience.

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