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@PeterHilton
http://hilton.org.uk/
E-Prime:
English for scientific writing
Scientific writing is shit.
2@PeterHilton •
http://writers-write-creative-blog.posthaven.com/
Passive-aggressive voice in scientific writing
Active voice:
‘A study by Smith showed that…’
Passive voice:
‘It has been s...
M E T H O D S
Patient population
In our prospective multicenter study, data
were collected on 3364 consecutively
includedp...
‘data were collected…
by zombies’
Ryan Polei / CC BY-ND 2.0
CT scan were found in 9.8% of the patients,
with the highest proportion of traumatic
findings in the category of patients ...
Marion Smits is associate professor and
neuroradiologist at Erasmus MC, Rotterdam (NL),
and honorary consultant and reader...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4XT-l-_3y0
In the English language, the verb ‘to be’ has several
distinct functions:
• identity - The cat is my only pet; The cat is ...
E-Prime
E’
Optimus Prime
oknidius / CC BY 2.0
E-Prime suggests a way
to improve scientific
writing.
15@PeterHilton •
E-Prime a.k.a. E’
E-Prime is a variant of English that excludes all forms of the
verb to be:
am are is was were be being b...
Example - auxiliary
The dog is chasing the cat
→ Joe saw the dog chasing the cat
Restore the observer
→ The dog continues ...
Example - identity
The electron is a particle
→ We perceive the electron as a particle
Restore the point of view with a mo...
Example - predicate
19@PeterHilton •
The dog is stupid
→ The dog behaves stupidly
Use a more specific predicate verb:
acco...
Not using E-Prime
Colloquial short forms tend to have understood meanings;
E-Prime versions would look awkward.
20@PeterHi...
History
E-Prime originates from the field of general semantics.
D. David Bourland Jr. devised E-Prime in the 1940s, 

as a...
Consequences - eliminations
dogmatic statements such as Light is a wave

pseudo-questions such as What is art?

internal-i...
Consequences - restorations
Actors as in Zombies collected data

Precision and clarity
A richer vocabulary of verbs
23@Pet...
Experience with E-Prime
I had fun taking up the challenge
… although using E-Prime for, say, email takes too long
I decide...
K2
Wikipedia Svy123 / CC BY 3.0
K’
because it’s there
Experience with E-Prime
After a year or so, using E-Prime has become more of a habit
… and I tend to more critically evalu...
Further research required
Reading speed and comprehension
Word count reduction
Translation speed and accuracy
Paper accept...
@PeterHilton
http://hilton.org.uk/http://hilton.org.uk/presentations/e-prime
E-Prime: English for scientific writing
E-Prime: English for scientific writing
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E-Prime: English for scientific writing

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Improving clarity through constrained writing

Descriptions of good technical writing often mention the virtue of ‘clarity’ while, ironically, themselves lacking clarity about what it means or where you get it. This talk introduces E-Prime as a simple constraint that results in clearer, more direct writing.

E-Prime constrains the English language by forbidding all forms of the verb ‘to be’. D David Bourland Jr came up with the idea in 1949 and used E-Prime to improve the quality of his academic writing. Bourland published his first paper recommending E-Prime in 1965. It never caught on.

The first time you try to use E-Prime, you get stuck. You discover the difficulty of constantly searching for an alternative verb, and even worry about what other people might think. Bourland himself wrote, ‘Between 1949 and 1964 I used E-Prime in several papers, but did not discuss this matter lest I become regarded as some kind of nut.’ Despite these setbacks, E-Prime has the capacity to intrigue.

In this talk, Peter Hilton describes how his initial curiosity and getting hooked on the challenge led to rewriting a software user manual in E-Prime and a new perspective on all kinds of writing. He explains what writing E-Prime feels like, what it does, why it works, where it has value, when it just wastes time and when you will sneakily use it anyway.

Veröffentlicht in: Wissenschaft
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E-Prime: English for scientific writing

  1. 1. @PeterHilton http://hilton.org.uk/ E-Prime: English for scientific writing
  2. 2. Scientific writing is shit. 2@PeterHilton •
  3. 3. http://writers-write-creative-blog.posthaven.com/
  4. 4. Passive-aggressive voice in scientific writing Active voice: ‘A study by Smith showed that…’ Passive voice: ‘It has been shown that…’ Passive-aggressive voice: ‘It has been shown [2] that…’ 4@PeterHilton •
  5. 5. M E T H O D S Patient population In our prospective multicenter study, data were collected on 3364 consecutively includedpatientsbetweenFebruary11,2002, and August 31, 2004, in 4 Dutch university hospitals (Figure). Patients were included if they presented within 24 hours after blunt head injury, were older than 16 years, and had a GCS score of 13 to 14 or had a GCS score of 15 with 1 of the following risk factors: history of loss of consciousness, short-term memory deficit, amnesia for the traumatic event, posttraumatic seizure, vomiting, severe headache, clinical evidence of intoxication deficit. Patients were excluded if a CT scan could not be performed due to concurrent injury or if there were contraindications to CT scanning. After review of our study protocol, patient informed consent was waived by the institutional review board and medical ethical committee, because patients meeting our inclusion criteria routinely undergo a head CT scan according to most local hospital policies, as is recommended in the current Dutch guidelines (10). Clinical definitions Patients were considered to have lost consciousness when reported by a witness or by the patient. Loss of consciousnessSmits et al, JAMA, 2005;294:1519-1525
  6. 6. ‘data were collected… by zombies’ Ryan Polei / CC BY-ND 2.0
  7. 7. CT scan were found in 9.8% of the patients, with the highest proportion of traumatic findings in the category of patients with a GCS score of 13 (24.5%). The most common traumatic finding on the CT scan was a skull fracture (59.6%) (Table 4). Clinically important lesions were present in 243 patients (77.9%). Epidural hematoma was present in 11.2% of patients with traumatic findings; most of these hematomas were small with no or only localized mass displacement (25 of 35 cases) and were likely to be venous in origin in 4 cases. Subdural hematoma was present in 67 patients (21.5%) with traumatic findings on CT, and also was small in most cases with no (42 patients) or minimal (14 Table 4. Traumatic findings on CT (n = 312)* CT finding No. (%) of patients Skull fracture 186 (59.6) Skull base 82 (26.3) Depressed 19 (6.1) Linear 114 (36.5) Subdural effusion 2 (0.6) Subdural hematoma 67 (21.5) Epidural hematoma 35 (11.2) Subarachnoid hemorrhage 86 (27.6) Intraparenchymal lesions 142 (45.5) Hemorrhagic contusion 118 (37.8) Non-hemorrhagic contusion 15 (4.8) Diffuse axonal injury 14 (4.5) Intraventricular hemorrhage 5 (1.6) Clinically important lesions† 243 (77.9)
  8. 8. Marion Smits is associate professor and neuroradiologist at Erasmus MC, Rotterdam (NL), and honorary consultant and reader at University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London (UK). https://marionsmits.net/marion-smits
  9. 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4XT-l-_3y0
  10. 10. In the English language, the verb ‘to be’ has several distinct functions: • identity - The cat is my only pet; The cat is Garfield • class membership - Garfield is a cat • class inclusion - A cat is an animal • predication - The cat is furry • auxiliary - The cat is sleeping; … being bitten by the dog • existence - There is a cat • location - The cat is on the mat; The cat is here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Prime
  11. 11. E-Prime
  12. 12. E’
  13. 13. Optimus Prime oknidius / CC BY 2.0
  14. 14. E-Prime suggests a way to improve scientific writing. 15@PeterHilton •
  15. 15. E-Prime a.k.a. E’ E-Prime is a variant of English that excludes all forms of the verb to be: am are is was were be being been Including contractions that use the same words: I’m you’re we’re they’re aren’t wasn’t weren’t isn’t he’s she’s it’s there’s here’s where’s how’s what’s who’s that’s 16@PeterHilton •
  16. 16. Example - auxiliary The dog is chasing the cat → Joe saw the dog chasing the cat Restore the observer → The dog continues to chase the cat Restore temporal qualification http://www.angelfire.com/nd/danscorpio/ep2.html 17@PeterHilton •
  17. 17. Example - identity The electron is a particle → We perceive the electron as a particle Restore the point of view with a more specific verb: say, believe, assert, assume, perceive, insist, claim, pronounce, hold, think, maintain, affirm, allege, suggest, imagine, estimate, observe, declare, contend, argue 18@PeterHilton •
  18. 18. Example - predicate 19@PeterHilton • The dog is stupid → The dog behaves stupidly Use a more specific predicate verb: accord, act, represent, resemble, simulate, approximate, symbolise, typify, coincide, copy, correlate, duplicate, emulate, epitomise, equal, imitate, impersonate, match, echo, mirror, model, paraphrase, portray, reflect
  19. 19. Not using E-Prime Colloquial short forms tend to have understood meanings; E-Prime versions would look awkward. 20@PeterHilton • How are you? Who are you? I’m ready Is anyone there? Is there any wine? Where’s it gone? What’s your point? Where were you?
  20. 20. History E-Prime originates from the field of general semantics. D. David Bourland Jr. devised E-Prime in the 1940s, 
 as a tool to clarify thinking and writing. Bourland published his first paper on E-Prime in 1965. It never caught on … but did get a Wikipedia page in 2001. 21@PeterHilton •
  21. 21. Consequences - eliminations dogmatic statements such as Light is a wave
 pseudo-questions such as What is art?
 internal-instructions such as I am an imposter, therefore…
 abbreviated statements such as It is clear that… 22@PeterHilton •
  22. 22. Consequences - restorations Actors as in Zombies collected data
 Precision and clarity A richer vocabulary of verbs 23@PeterHilton •
  23. 23. Experience with E-Prime I had fun taking up the challenge … although using E-Prime for, say, email takes too long I decided to try it for edited technical writing … and eventually rewrote a 25K-word software manual 24@PeterHilton •
  24. 24. K2 Wikipedia Svy123 / CC BY 3.0 K’ because it’s there
  25. 25. Experience with E-Prime After a year or so, using E-Prime has become more of a habit … and I tend to more critically evaluate what I write … as well as what other people write :) 27@PeterHilton •
  26. 26. Further research required Reading speed and comprehension Word count reduction Translation speed and accuracy Paper acceptance and citation rate Partial E-Prime Effectiveness in languages other than English 28@PeterHilton •
  27. 27. @PeterHilton http://hilton.org.uk/http://hilton.org.uk/presentations/e-prime

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