WRITE IN ENGLISH.pdf
Careful editing will shorten your texts, making them more publishable. One writer wisely said,
“If I had had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.”
Trust your ear. English grammar rules are many, with multiple exceptions. At your language
level, in this country, depend instead on what you have heard in English, idioms especially.
Your ear will tell you when an odd-looking phrase sounds right. My long experience shows that
Finns’ TV- and travel-trained ears are trustworthy. Read all your written texts aloud to yourself.
English is not logical. The most logical choice of words is often not what a native speaker
would say. (Which is logical: “hang up,” “ring off,” or “close the phone?”How about “For the
20 last years” versus “for the last 20 years”?) In English, the most nearly logical system is
punctuation, but even punctuation differs considerably from Finnish punctuation.
Finno-ugric versus Anglo-American Style
Finns, from a homogeneous, well-educated society, may tend to view their readers as informed
colleagues who will work hard to understand a text. Good Anglo-American writers may seem to
be “packaging” or even “marketing” their texts; they are actually trying to write so clearly that a
busy, tired, easily bored reader can absorb their full meaning in only one rapid reading.
The Anglo-American writer leads the reader by the hand, but the Finnish writer often expects
readers to find their own way. In Finland, be Finnish. But Finns wishing to publish in English in
journals with Anglo-American editors and reviewers must use a reader-helpful style.
For instance, make the strategy of your text clear, not implicit. Present important points first,
rather than gradually “sneaking up on them.” Let your readers know immediately what is going on.
Note: This book benefits from a collection of essays gathered by Professor George M. Hall
entitled How to Write a Paper, 2nd edition, 1998 (British Medical Journal publishing
group). Hall and his other expert contributors will be cited as appearing in “Hall 1998.”
Basic Methodology I: Process Writing
Write the first draft
Never translate whole sentences from your mother tongue.
Avoid trying yet to organize your items. Rather, get your ideas out in front of you first.
Pour out your thoughts in English, in the language of speech.
Write in many short, simple sentences.
Refer immediately to the main items involved; use signposts.
Write “long”: Produce a 1,000-word text that will end as 600 words.
Allow yourself to use the passive voice (see section on passives) whenever comfortable.
Let yourself use the spoken forms “there is / are / was / were.”
Use simple verbs such as “to be / have / get / see / find out .”