Need Help with Writing?
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11.10.2022 •

Need Help with Writing?

Academic writing is a process that can be improved with the use of tools such as Artificial intelligence that can be used to help identify errors and suggest corrections. 

Other tools that can be used to improve academic writing include grammar checkers and style checkers. 

By using these tools, writers can improve the quality of their writing and the clarity of their arguments. While AI is not a perfect solution for every writing task and should be used with caution, it can be a helpful tool for improving texts. 

When reviewers criticize the writing in a manuscript, what they often mean is that the paper is unclear or poorly organized. That's a problem that all writers can face, independent of whether English is their primary language or not.

There are a few key things that reviewers will look for when critiquing a manuscript: clarity, organization, and coherence. 

If your paper is unclear, reviewers will likely point out specific sections that were difficult to follow. If your paper is poorly organized, reviewers will suggest ways to improve the flow of your argument. Lastly, if your paper lacks coherence, reviewers will identify areas where your argument does not hold together.

However, do not despair! These are all problems that can be fixed with a little bit of effort.

One way to improve the clarity of your writing is to focus on sentence structure. Make sure that your sentences are clear and concise. 

Another way to improve clarity is to use specific and concrete examples. This will help your readers understand your argument better. 

Finally, make sure that your paper is well-organized. A good way to do this is to create an outline before you start writing. This will help you keep track of your thoughts and ensure that your paper flows smoothly.

To help with that, here are a few tools that can be used to improve academic writing:

Tools for brushing up

If English is not your native language, you can have the help of DeepL Translate and a writing aid called Grammarly.

Grammarly is available as a plug-in that is compatible with a range of apps and platforms — including Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Gmail, Slack, and Overleaf (an online editor for the LaTeX typesetting language), as well as a keyboard app for mobile devices. 

It has both free and paid versions. The free version corrects grammar, spelling, and punctuation; checks that writing is concise; and signifies the tone of your text by displaying appropriate emojis (for instance, an image of a button-down shirt to denote formality). 

The premium version, which starts at US$12 per month, also suggests alternative wording, tracks consistency of spelling and punctuation, makes suggestions for tone, and detects plagiarized text.

Another tool, more direct to academic articles is Writefull. The artificial intelligence (AI)-based tool is trained on academic publications, which means it can recognize scientific terms and offer grammar and style suggestions that align with academic writing.

Writefull has plug-ins for both Microsoft Word and Overleaf and uses widgets to address specific elements of a scientific paper. 

The Sentence Palette widget, for example, helps users to construct sentences from phrases that occur in papers on which the algorithm was trained, and the Paraphraser widget rewrites sentences, allowing authors to add variety or nuance to their text. 

The Title Generator uses an abstract to suggest a title, and the Abstract Generator, launched in June, produces an abstract from an article’s text. Both free and premium versions of the software have these widgets. But the premium tier, starting at €5.46 per month, provides a wider range of suggestions and results.

There is also Paperpal, which is currently used mainly by academic publishers and is embedded into the submission interfaces of some 300 journals, including titles from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Chemical Society. 

Researchers can upload their manuscripts to a participating journal to receive a Paperpal ‘preflight’ check, which flags issues with grammar and language as well as departures from the journal’s requirements in areas such as references, tables, citations, and conflict-of-interest statements. 

For US$29 per manuscript, authors receive an automated in-depth edit suggesting fixes for these issues, shown as revisions in Microsoft Word’s track-changes feature.

Other online tools can help people to boost their English-language writing and communication skills. For example, DeepL’s free dictionary app, Linguee, gives nuanced translations of phrases and idioms. 

An interactive, AI-based voice tool called ELSA can help people to improve cadence and pronunciation, which can be especially helpful when preparing scientific presentations. 

In addition, a database called Academic Phrasebank, developed by John Morley, a linguist at the University of Manchester, UK, contains more than 3,000 phrases harvested from papers across different fields, which can serve as common structural elements in academic writing. 

Text adapted from Nature.