Technical writing is an art on its own, especially if English is not ones native language. My writing skills are far from perfect. However, there is a bunch of mistakes that I see (my) students etc. to repeat over and over. I will collect them here to help them to remember.

If this triggered your interest, please see here for a more extensive list: Also, I like the book “Bugs in Writing” from Lyn Dupre.


Please note, (1) my writing skills are far from perfect, I still do (too) many mistakes myself. (2) This may include the ones I list here :-). (3) As young PhD student my writing skill where even worse than now, I thank all the people who bared with me and helped me to become a better writer (This especially includes Stefan Götz, Klaus Wehrle, Tobias Heer, Jo Agila Bitsch Link, Hamad Alizai and many many others). Thus, any hints on mistakes I do in the examples below are very welcome :-).

Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

Passive Voice (do not use it): “The computational performance are shown in Section 5.1.”
Active Voice (yes, yes, use it): “Section 5.1 shows the computational performance” or ” We show the computational performance in Section 5.1.”

Figure 5, Section 3, etc. are Names: They need Capitalization

No: “We show the computational performance in section 5.1.
Yes: “We show the computational performance in Section 5.1.”

I.e. and friends.

No: “The world is flat, i.e. there are no mountains.
Yes: “The world is flat, i.e., there are no mountains.”

E.g. vs i.e.

Ask your favorite search engine


No: “A record contains a meter ID, GPS coordinates and a timestamp.
Yes: “A record contains a meter ID, GPS coordinates, and a timestamp.”

Sections etc.

Readers are afraid of surprises. First tell them what they will see in a specific (sub)section and then detail on it: “In this section, we first discuss the configuration options of the algorithm. Next, we employ a set of benchmarks to select options that both ensure a high performance and accuracy”. After such a short intro, go on and discuss the two aspects.
Similarly, a small conclusion / reflection / discussion is helpful at the end of a (sub) section.

Captions of Figures

No: “CDF of deviations in the data-set.
Yes: “The CDF of the deviations in the data-set. The plots indicate that independent of the experimental setup, pigs cannot fly”.
Thus, after noting the technical aspects of a figure, please summarize the take-home message of a figure/table/…: What shall a reader conclude from the figure? In the paper itself you then elaborate on the details, corner cases etc.