The ACS Style Guide has always been a classic manual for scientific publications. But in 2020 it was revised and expanded as ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.The ACS Guide to Scientific Communication Not only does it provide professional advice to students, researchers, educators, and librarians, but it also helps researchers at different stages of their careers respond to the evolving world of publishing.

These ACS Axial Series contains excerpts from the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication. Portions of the original text are available free of charge for a limited time under an ACS Free to Read license. Certain sections are given at the end of each post.

The words chosen by a writer are one of the defining characteristics of that author’s style. The choice of words is not determined by style alone, however. The audience for an article must influence a writer’s choice of words so that the writer can choose words that the audience is likely to be familiar with and define the words that are not. The type of document can also affect a writer’s choice of words, as some documents, such as B. magazine articles and books tend to require a more formal use of words, while other documents such as e. B. e-mails, allow less formality.

Common confusing words and phrases

Choosing the right word to express meaning starts with a good dictionary, but also extends to understanding small differences in meaning between two words or phrases that are almost synonymous or spelled similarly, but have significant differences in meaning. It is best to use words in their primary meaning and avoid using a word to express a thought when such use is unusual, informal, or primarily literary. Many words are clear when you speak because you can use gestures, expressions, and voice inflections to reinforce their meaning. When the same words are written, only you may find them clear.

Words: insuring against insuring against insuring

Use: To insure means to affirm; to ensure means to ensure; to insure means to compensate for money.

Example sentences:

He assured me that the work was done.

The process ensures that clear guidelines have been established.

You can’t get a mortgage if you don’t insure your home.

Sentences: Based on vs. Based on

Use: Sentences that begin with “based on” must change a noun or pronoun that is usually immediately before or after the sentence. Use phrases that begin with “based on” to change a verb.

Example sentences:

Doctors’ new methods in brain surgery were based on Ben Carson’s work.

Based on the molecular orbital calculations, we propose a mechanism that can take into account all of the main features of alkali and alkaline earth catalyzed gasification reactions. (not ‘based on’)

Words: Comprise vs. Compose

Use: Use “comprise” to mean “contain” or “consist of”. It is not a synonym for “composing”. The whole includes the parts or the whole consists the parts, but the whole is not made up of the parts. Never use “consists of”.

Example sentences:

Wrong: a book consists of chapters.

CORRECT: A book consists of chapters.

CORRECT: A book consists of chapters.

Use gender neutral languages

Most publishers have gone to great lengths to avoid the use of gender-sensitive languages ​​in their publications. Gender-neutral language is now also expected in academic publishing. Current style guides and writing instructions urge editors and authors to choose terms that do not reinforce outdated gender and gender roles.

Gender neutral language can be accurate, unbiased, and not necessarily cumbersome. The most problematic words are the noun “man” when used to refer to people in general, and the pronouns “he” and “to be” when used to refer to an unspecific individual. These terms are no longer considered gender neutral, but there are usually several satisfactory gender neutral alternatives for these words. Choose an alternative carefully and keep it in line with the context. Of course, if the identity of the person being discussed is known, it is perfectly acceptable to use their stated pronouns.

How to use a comparison phrase

Words: Less versus less

Use: Use “less” to refer to the number. Use “less” to refer to crowd. However, use “less” for combinations of number and unit of measure, as these are considered to be singular.


Less than 50 animals

Less than 100 samples

Less product

Less time

Less work

Less than 5 mg

Less than 3 days

Sentences: Greater Than vs. More Than vs. Over vs. Over Over

Use: Use the more specific terms “greater than” or “more than” in place of the imprecise “over” or “over”.

Example sentences:

More than 50% (not more than 50%)

More than 100 samples (not more than 100 samples)

More than 25 mg (not more than 25 mg, not more than 25 mg)

Sentences: On the one hand and on the other

Use: Use “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” to represent conflicting points of view. These two sentences should only be used as a pair, never alone and preferably within a few sentences of each other. In other words, only use “on the other side” when it is preceded by “on one side”.

Example sentences:

On the one hand, we wanted to arrive early to practice our presentation and fix last-minute problems. On the other hand, we didn’t want to miss the current talk session and the opportunity to talk to others about their research.

Avoid using inappropriate words and phrases

Write in a style that conveys the intended meaning in simple, professional language. Avoid slang and jargon, which are colloquial terms that are not formal enough to be appropriate in a professional context. Write as if you were speaking to a colleague. For example, instead of writing: “We’ll put the sample in the refrigerator for a while,” write: “We kept the sample in the refrigerator at 4 ° C overnight.”

Do not use “or” when you mean “separate” or “independent”.

NOT CORRECT: The electrochemical oxidations of chromium and tungsten tricarbonyl complexes were investigated.

CORRECT: The electrochemical oxidations of chromium and tungsten tricarbonyl complexes were investigated separately.

Avoid contractions and abbreviations:


CORRECT: Was not

NOT CORRECT: In the laboratory

CORRECT: In the laboratory

Avoid redundant sentence structures like “It is”, “there is” and “that is”::

NOT CORRECT: It is a procedure that is widely used.

CORRECT: This is a common practice.

NOT CORRECT: There are seven steps that must be followed.

CORRECT: There are seven steps to follow.

NOT CORRECT: This is a problem that is widespread in the sciences.

CORRECT: This problem is widespread in the sciences.

For more information on using better word decisions, see section 5.1.1 of the ACS Guide to Scientific Communication.


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