substantive edit

Simple style fixes for your scientific writing

by Dr. Speta, ScienceDocs Geology Editor and Writer

For our scientific writing, we have a responsibility to our readers. Our responsibility is to convey our message as clearly as possible. Some of the main factors that affect the clarity of one’s writing are word choice, sentence structure, and consistency in voice. These are skills that can take years of training to perfect, but the good news is that there are also some simple things that you can do to enhance the clarity of your scientific writing. The following 4 tips will make your writing clearer and more professional:

Always put a space between a number and the units of measure.

6 km, not 6km

The exception to this rule is degrees and percentages, where the symbol always directly follows the number.

6° and 6%, not 6 ° or 6 %

The rule for degrees of temperature varies; some style guides require a space between the number and the symbol, while others don’t. My personal preference is no space, but the rule of the style guide you are following always takes precedence.

6°C or 6 °C

Single space only after a full stop (period).

Putting double spaces after periods is an antiquated rule from the typewriter era that, for some reason, even millennials like me were still taught in school.

Always put a comma after “i.e.” and “e.g.”.




There are three different types of dashes: the hyphen (-), the en dash (–), and the em dash (—). The type of dash that should be used can be a source of spirited debate for editors and writing nerds, and a source of eyerolls for the rest of the human population. Why does using the right dash matter? Clarity, clarity, clarity.

How do you know when to use which dash? The table below provides their typical uses. There are some exceptions, and different style guides have different requirements. However, if you follow this guideline, you’ll be sure to impress your ScienceDocs editor. Leave the nit-picky details for us!



Typical Use




How to Type



Compound adjectives.

Note that some terms can be used either as a compound adjectives (hyphenated), or compound nouns (not hyphenated). See the example for “remote sensing”.


The ore-bearing formation…

Three quarter-mile sections…

We used a remote-sensing method (vs. We used remote sensing).



(the dash key on your keyboard)

En Dash


Indicating a range (e.g., pages of a chapter). You can think of en dashes as being used in place of the preposition “to”.



The May–September issue…

U–Pb age dating…

Add 3–4 mm of water.

Let’s take the London–Paris train.



Option (Alt) + –



Ctrl + –

Em Dash


Inserting a phrase. You can think of em dashes are being used in place of parentheses or a colon.


We drove our car—a small Mazda—into the city.




Shift + Option (Alt) + –


PC: Ctrl + Alt + –



geology editor speta

Learn more about ScienceDocs Geology Editor Dr. Speta


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