Tips on Punctuations, Grammar and Style in Research Writing

Punctuations, Grammar and Style in Research Writing

Research writing is arguably the most feared form of writing for many students, especially undergraduates, and this is due to the rigour involved both in the research process and documentation process. Today we will be looking at tips to help you structure your research better and ensure a simple understanding of the message you want to convey. In this article, we will give you tips to help improve your punctuation, grammar and style when documenting your research report.

Tips on Punctuation

  • Differentiate commas and semi-colons: It is essential to know the difference between a comma and a semi-colon. Many students make the mistake of using semi-colon; like we just did in place of a comma. A comma is used when there is a short pause in a statement, whereas, a semi-colon is used for a long break in a statement; however, it is not so long to need a full stop. It is worthy to note that a semi-colon comes before a statement that can stand on its own. Ensure you don’t use commas unnecessarily if there is no reason to pause a comment; if not, the sentence can become unreadable.

Note that your sentences should not make the readers confused with over punctuation or the lack of punctuation.

  • Appropriate use of the apostrophe: another common mistake in writing is the neglect of apostrophe. It can be argued that apostrophe is a punctuation mark that is often misused and neglected in the same proportion. An apostrophe is used for possessive (the school’s property, my girlfriend’s phone) and specific contractions (it’s, let’s) rather than for plural forms as commonly used.
  • Know where to place quotation marks: It is important to note that it is wrong to have full stops and commas after using the quotation marks. The ideal is to put these two punctuation marks inside the quotation marks, including when they are not part of what is being quoted. For example: “Let us reopen schools,” he said. Aside from the full stop and comma, any other punctuation mark goes outside the quotation marks unless it is included in the quoted text.
  • Avoid multiple punctuations at the end of a sentence: Avoid making use of various punctuations at the end of a sentence. If your sentence ends with a question mark, don’t follow it up with a full stop. For example, I didn’t like it even when I worked at Yahoo! It would be improper to add a full stop after the “Yahoo.” Even when your sentence ends with a full stop following an abbreviation, don’t include another one. Let’s take a look at this example, ‘I especially didn’t like it when I saw it at 5:00 a.m.’ Although the full stop at the end of the sentence is for abbreviation ‘AM’ it also serves as an excellent end to the sentence.
  • The colon should only be used to introduce a list when the introductory text is a complete sentence: When a sentence is incomplete, it would be improper to use a colon to add a list (Please bring: a canvass, short and shirts). However, when the preceding sentence to the list is complete and makes sense on its own, you should use a colon (Please bring the following items: a canvass, short and shirts).
  • Learn how to punctuate with parenthesis: The end punctuation of a long sentence placed within a parenthetical box is outside the box. However, if the penalty within the bracket exists on its own, the punctuation goes within the box. Please take a look at this example: She nonchalantly told us she would be spending her birthday in Venice (Italy, not California). (Unfortunately, we weren’t invited.)

Tips on style

Regardless of the type of writing, the reason for writing is always the same, which is to transmit content and achieve a “practical” goal, such as informing, instructing, explaining, convincing, making people act, etc.

  • Clear language: Research papers should be written in simple and clear “language” so that the reader for whom they are intended can easily read and understand them. And the best way to do that is to write short sentences.
  • Length of a sentence: shorter a sentence, the more easily it is read, and the better it is understood by its reader. Thus, a sentence of 15 to 20 words can be read without difficulty by the majority of the readers.
  • Express only one idea per sentence: The main idea, that is to say, the essence of the subject is stated in the first sentence, the following come to support this idea and develop it. The whole constitutes a single paragraph.
  • Reduce the number of “who’s”: If there is a lot of “who, that” in writing, it is quite simply because we use them a lot orally: they allow us to take a small-pause and think about what we are going to do and say. But, in writing, the relative pronouns” who and that” tend to make sentences more complex. They are built with subordinates, which consequently lengthens the sentence. They make it harder to understand the text, and finally, they slow down reading.
  • Eliminate unnecessary words: No need to overdo it and unnecessarily lengthen sentences. Careful proofreading of writing makes it very easy to read sentences by eliminating superfluous details. Take, for example, “There are decisions that I cannot take alone” -> “I cannot take certain decisions on my own.”

15 Mistakes that Can Affect Your Sentence Structure

Even the smartest people can make inevitable grammar mistakes with similar words or confusing rules. Nevertheless, some mistakes must be avoided as much as possible due to the fact that they are extremely embarrassing and even funny.

Here are the 15 mistakes in English that you can’t make and how to avoid them:

1. Your and You’re

The word you’re is a possessive pronoun used in phrases like ‘this is your hair.’ The term you’re is a contraction of you are, and it means “you are” and can be used in phrases like you’re so smart.

2. It’s and Its

It’s an abbreviation for it is, or it has. It is used, for example, in a sentence like it’s a car. The word its, in turn, is a possessive pronoun for objects. To avoid the error, you can replace it with it is and see if the sentence still makes sense.

3. There, Their and They’re

The word there means “there.” Example: I will be there. The word there is a possessive pronoun used in the third person, as in the phrase their car is blue, which means “their car is blue”. The term they’re is used to say, “they are”.

4. Affect and Effect

The word affect is a verb that means to affect or affect. Effect, on the other hand, is a noun and means effect or result.

5. Then and Then

Then and Then are two very confusing words, especially when spoken since the pronunciation is practically similar. The uses, however, are quite different. The term then can have many meanings, for example, a certain time in the past: things were better then, immediately or time right after a certain action, the boy stopped and then started again, among others. The word than is used in comparison situations, as in the phrase, my dad is older than yours.

6. Loose and Lose

The term loose is used to describe a particular object, that is, it is an adjective that means loose. The verb lose, on the other hand, indicates the action of losing or misplacing. Because the pronunciation is similar, it is important to pay attention to the sentence’s meaning to use them correctly.

7. Me and Myself

Replacing “me” with “I” in English is the same as confusing “me” with “myself”. To avoid making mistakes, switch the terms and choose the one that makes the most grammatical sense. The word “Myself” is used on several occasions. As a “me” or “I” intensifier: I myself will challenge that man. Replacing “me” as an object, I gave myself a break. It is employed after the words as, ”Than” or “But”.

8. Using the apostrophe

It is necessary to use the apostrophe in two cases: contractions, as in the case of you’re, or it’s, and to indicate possession, as in the example ‘Rebeca’s house is near.’

9. Could, Would and Should

Could is used to express possibility, conditional. Would can be used as the past of will to express the future in phrases in the past: He said he would go tomorrow to indicate habitual or repeated actions in the past or indicate intention or inclination for a certain thing. Should, in turn, is used to express a condition, duty, or as the shall.

10. Complement and Compliment

The word complement means something that adds to or supplements something else or an action. The term compliment is a good thing or a compliment to someone or something.

11. Fewer and Less

You should use the word fewer for things you can count on, as in the phrase, Julia has taken fewer photos since she got a job at the store. The less should be used for things that are not countable, as an abstract concept, for example, feelings.

12. Historic and Historical

Historic indicates a landmark event or something important. The term historical indicates something that happened in the past.

13. Principal or Principle

Principal is used either as a noun to indicate something of the highest hierarchy or as an adjective to express what is most important or principal. In turn, the word principle is a noun that means something fundamental, truth, law, or principle.

14. Literally

It is popularly used to express something intense, as it is done in Portuguese. However, this use is wrong, and the word should only be used when it is literal. To say I’m literally dying of shame means that you are dying from shame or embarrassment, which is impossible.

15. Word order

It is possible to make easily avoidable mistakes due to the order of the words. When formulating a more complex or long sentence, be careful that the sentence’s order is not confusing, allowing ambiguity of meanings or misinterpretation.


Now we have gotten to the end of this topic, and we really hope these few tips we have mentioned will aid you in your research writing process. Getting your punctuations, grammar and structuring of your writeup right go a long way in the progress of research work as it saves time and energy.

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