Concise Wording in Computer Science Research I

14598557488_5a2646eb91_bEven if you are an experienced writer, writing an academic paper has unique challenges. The ideas are often complex and highly abstract. In addition, competition for spaces in the top venues is tough, and peer reviewers are distracted and pressed for time. It is not enough to have completed a significant study; if the paper is not readable, few will make the effort to understand the ideas it contains and it will be rejected.

Concise language has two advantages. First, it conveys those complex ideas as clearly as possible. Second, it reduces your word count. Many journal and conference papers have strict page limits; if you can cut out unnecessary words, there will be more room for your research.

A few simple examples of how reduce words follow:

“And futhermore, …” should be “Futhermore, …”

“And furthermore” is a familiar phrase in spoken English, and as a result, it is hard to spot this error because it sounds intuitively correct. Nevertheless, in academic writing, it is redundant.

“And” signals that there is an additional idea or argument coming up in the next sentence. “Furthermore” signals exactly the same thing. Only one of these words is necessary. Beginning a sentence with “and” is informal and should be avoided in academic writing.  Hence, the word to use is “furthermore” on its own.  If you wish to save four additional characters, you could shorten it even more to “further.” Alternatively, you could use “in addition” or “additionally.”

“The GA algorithm is well-known to be…” should be “The GA is well-known to be…”

Here, I assume that GA means “genetic algorithm” or perhaps “greedy algorithm.” If you expand the acronym, you then get the phrase, “The genetic algorithm algorithm is well-known to be…”

Clearly, one of those “algorithms” can go.*

“The initialization process of the module was performed.” should be “The module was initialized.”

This is is an extremely understandable error. After all, it is highly likely that in your computer code, there really is an initialization process. It is a bona-fide thing, perhaps a method or a procedure, that had to be written, debugged, etc. Furthermore, it has to actively “be performed” via a method or function call.

However, in academic writing, this level of implementation detail is not necessary. Most readers understand that these common processes occur when a module is initialized and are more interested in the novel aspects of your code. Hence, it is better to focus the text on the action that was performed.

In the same way, every time the words “process” or “was performed” occur in your text, it is likely that a similar edit is possible:

“The filtering process on the image was performed.” should be “The image was filtered.”

“The evaluation process of the method was performed.” should be “The method was evaluated.”

By making the effort to clarify your text as much as possible, you present your ideas in the best possible light and increase your chances of publication success.


*And then there are those who define recursive acronyms on purpose. These acronyms are definitely outside the scope of this post.

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