A simple (incomplete) check-list
for writing papers
Sachin Sapatnekar, University of Minnesota
- Did you perform a spell-check?
- "Dew knot trussed spell chequers
to fined awl miss steaks."
Have you proofread the manuscript to look for simple errors? ("an" for "and",
inadvertent "the the"'s, etc.)
- Are all references correctly
formatted? Check for spaces after commas and periods, existence of all info
(page #, volume #, date etc. where applicable) on all references.
- Have you fixed problems associated
with listing references or drawn figures/tables that are never cited in
- Avoid the use of "don't," "can't,"
"won't," "it's" and most words with apostrophes. Rephrase the sentence,
if necessary, to avoid apostrophes (e.g., change "the paper's thrust was..."
to "the thrust of the paper was..")
- Have you been consistent in
capitalizing first letters of words in the title, section headings, references,
etc.? Be consistent with listing titles as either
- The Meaning of Life
(all important first letters are capitalized), or
- The meaning of life
(only the first letter of the sentence is capitalized).
- Do you have any orphaned headings?
An orphaned heading appears when a section heading appears on one page,
but the first line of the section is an the next page.
- Did you find the deliberate
mistake in the item above? [Did you find any other mistakes? If so, please
email me. ]
- If you are revising a copy
that has been marked by your advisor.. have you really paid attention to
all of the suggested changes? It is fine to ignore a suggested change for
a good reason, but do not ignore suggestions out of sloppiness.
- Did you use correct (and consistent)
punctuation in all itemized lists? Did you check the accuracy of the numbers
used before a list? An example of a sloppy list with two errors follows.
There are three types of mathematicians
[The last item should end with
a period since it is the end of a sentence.]
- those who can count, and
- those who cannot
There is a factual error in the sentence too - we all know that mathematicians
belong to the second category above - but let us ignore that for now :-).
- Did you understand the importance
of each reference listed? Do not bank on the description of a reference in
another paper; this often causes misunderstood concepts in that reference
- Do your material and ideas flow
- Are all terms defined before
or just after they have been used?
- Have you explained the intuition
behind your heuristics?
- Have you explained all tables
and figures in the results section? It is not enough to create tables and
figures and expect the reader to make sense of them. Highlight the main points
and draw attention to what each table or figure shows.
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