Author's Toolkit, Vol. 28, No. 3
Authorʼs Toolkit by Ron Read, Osaka Branch Manager
Published in IEICE INFORMATION AND SYSTEMS SOCIETY JOURNAL
Vol. 28, No. 3 ©2023 IEICE
Achieving a sentence that clearly expresses your intention is a worthy goal. One basic pattern toward this end is a short passive clause in the past tense followed by an infinitive phrase.
Passive + Infinitive for Intentionality
Sentences can often be recast, or structurally rearranged, in different ways to best express the intended meaning or to satisfy a writing style requirement of the publisher.
One such requirement is a publication’s rule against using “We.” (As mentioned before, most academic publishers have no problem with “we,” but some cling to this old prohibition.) Thus, these clear and simple sentences are forbidden:
× We generated a higher response by setting a lower threshold.
× We set a lower threshold to generate a higher response.
A basic solution is to simply recast the sentence using a passive voice construction:
± A higher response was generated by setting a lower threshold.
± By setting a lower threshold, a higher response was generated.
These sentences are quite clear, yet the authors’ intentionality looks somehow concealed. To express purpose even with a passive sentence, an infinitive phrase (“to” form) can be handy:
O A lower threshold was set to generate a higher response.
Although this sentence is not really any clearer or better structured than the above two sentences, it more strongly emphasizes the authors’ intentionality in performing an action toward a particular target.
In using an infinitive phrase, placing it after, rather than before, the passive voice clause creates a slightly higher sense of the authors’ intentionality:
O To prevent breakage when the robot moves through narrow passages, a more flexible sensor mount was designed.
± A more flexible sensor mount was designed to prevent breakage when the robot moves through narrow passages.
The difference between the nuances of these two sentences is nearly imperceptible, but a native-English reader will surely perceive the first one’s greater intentionality of action.
This easy pattern for stressing your intention is a useful addition to your writing toolkit.
Writing Highlights or Contributions
In recent years, many journals have requested a section for showing a paper’s “highlights” or “contributions.” These are usually placed, as lists of sentences or just phrases, after the abstract.
They are typically short (25 or 30 words) and formatted as bulleted (•) or numbered (1, 2, 3…) points, with usually three to five of them.
In addition to normal good writing principles (clarity, high impact), pay attention to using consistent sentence style among the points:
x 1) A new judgment criterion is established…
2) Computer simulations are run to test the...
3) We also verified the simulation results by…
o 3) Experiments are conducted to verify…
When discussing your achieved results or performance levels, state these achievements in specific rather than general terms:
x • Very large improvement in noise cancelation was achieved by…
o • A 17% improvement in noise cancelation was achieved by…
Mini Quiz: What's Wrong?
1) Many reports have proven the feasibility of…
2) Many reports have proved the feasibility of…
(Answers: 1) OK; 2) OK; Both are considered correct as present perfect forms, although several top American and British sources (Chicago, AP manuals of style) prefer “proved”