Writing Clear Concise Sentences. Reading the literature

22 Apr

As a top researcher, you must be able to write up your papers quickly and effectively.  One way to do this is to write in a direct and active way. Here is a sentence that I received  today. It makes me want to cry.  (: Luckily I can blog about my pain instead!  Yes, I’m in pain…but that is why I call my BLOG….. YES!!  NO PAIN. NO GAIN!

OLD:  It has been shown that infants younger than six months of age are capable of following their caregiver’s direction of attention and by the first year, typically developing children are competent non-verbal communicators (Trepagnier, Sebrechts, Finkelmeyer, Stewart, Woodford, & Coleman, 2006).

Here is my problem with the sentence:  If it has been shown that infants younger than 6 months follow attention – why don’t we state at what age infants do  it?  Why is the author here focusing on 6 months?  Is there a rationale?    Do we care that it has been shown that.. ? Or do we care that infants follow gaze?   What is with all of the clauses?   Avoid clauses. Write in an active way.

Write in short active sentences. Before I even begin to process this sentence I can tell it is too long and that I will be lost.  As someone who studies infants in the first days and months –  I want to jump out of a TALL building when I read something like the above… Maybe that is the aim of some… But let’s assume it is not the case in this example!   “By the first year, infants are competent non-verbal communicators”  Where did  we get this idea?    There is evidence that newborns are excellent non-verbal communicators. Are we just going to ignore the first 6 months of postnatal human  development? Even by 3 month infants pick up upon 1 second delay in interaction…. is this not a non verbal cue?  My point here is that if you become an excellent writer, people will remember what you write… and maybe even believe it!

Back to the sentence… Infants are sensitive to faces, voices, touch… is this not non-verbal communication?   All of this makes me wonder if the students read papers from my  lab – not to mention other labs.  I’m not even going into all of the evidence that infants are sensitive to joint attention in the first year (see Hoehl, Striano, etc.).

NEW: I would write the sentence as:  Three month old infants follow gaze…. Or..

Young infants follow gaze..   Young infants follow other’s attention… or or..  Give it a shot!






One Response to “Writing Clear Concise Sentences. Reading the literature”

  1. Momoko May 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    This research investigates that whether young children and infants perceive a relationship between a color and an emotional expression. The impact of color is important due to the influences it has on their perception of their environment and emotional development. For example, this impact is transmitted from children’s toys, clothes, interiors and so on. Therefore, associating a color with an emotion is a crucial aspect in child development. The past study found that young children demonstrate consistent relationships between colors and facial expressions. However, little is known about the case of infants. Accordingly, we are going to examine if infants detect an association between color and a face with emotional expression as well as young children. More specifically, we hypothesize that infants associate the color yellow to happy facial expressions and black to sad facial expressions.

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