Author's Toolkit, Vol. 28, No. 2
Authorʼs Toolkit by Ron Read, Osaka Branch Manager
Published in IEICE INFORMATION AND SYSTEMS SOCIETY JOURNAL
Vol. 28, No. 2 ©2023 IEICE
As Iʼve often noted, English is an action-oriented language, which makes verbs particularly important. Consequently, you should carefully choose the sentenceʼs verb.
In many cases, different verbs can be used to reflect your intended meaning in a sentence. In technical writing, the chosen verb should not only clearly convey this meaning but also express the appropriate impact.
For example, to show the main cause of some effect, consider the following two sentences:
× The materialʼs strength is decided by the cooling time.
〇 The materialʼs strength is determined by the cooling time.
The first sentence sounds weaker, and itʼs a bit odd because people usually “decide” things.
Another writing job is to express the level of performance reached by a proposed method. Here, you should choose a strong verb:
× By applying our model, we realized more than 20% improvement in precision.
〇 By applying our model, we achieved more than 20% improvement in precision.
Here, “realize” does not strongly express a significant achievement—“achieve” does.
When you want to say that your purpose is to understand something better, consider the effect of these two verbs:
× Our aim was to better understand the causes of the recurrent pattern shifting.
〇 Our aim was to clarify the causes of the recurrent pattern shifting.
Although both of these sentences basically give the same idea, the second one gives the added impression of actively investigating the issue rather than just passively receiving information from the results.
When describing future work, such as at the end of a paperʼs Conclusion, the means of reaching a research aim is often still not clearly defined, and in fact this search for a good method may be at the heart of that anticipated study:
× In future work, we will study ways to minimize the latency in robot responses.
〇 In future work, we will explore ways to minimize the latency in robot responses.
These two sentences both clearly give the intended idea. But the second oneʼs use of “explore” has the added feeling of aspiration and excitement, rather than just continuing work.
In presenting results, consider impact:
× These results show substantial improvement in the detection of anomalies.
〇 These results demonstrate substantial improvement in the detection of anomalies.
Here, “demonstrate” is stronger and more concrete, but donʼt use this strength needlessly:
× These results demonstrate only minor improvement in the detection of anomalies.
Recently, Iʼve been carefully examining the conference posters of my students as well as a large number of posters from various websites.
A common design weakness is the background used, especially that of the text sections. Too often, I see “artistic” backgrounds such as images or textured patterns that hurt the readability of the text, thus burdening visitors trying to get the ideas quickly and easily.
Keep text blocks simple: dark text against a plain, light-colored background. Always think about your visitorsʼ comfort in getting the info.
Mini Quiz: What's Wrong?
1) We adapted a new model to handle the…
2) We slightly adopted the model to handle the…
3) We adopted a standard model to handle the…
(Answers: 1) “adopted”; 2) “adapted”; 3) OK, or “adapted” depending on the context