Scholarly Writing

Tips for successful writing


Academic writing should be free from punctuation errors. The more common errors in post-secondary writing stem most commonly from errors in comma, colon, and semi-colon use.

Go to the following TEDEd website for four short videos on:

  1. How to use a comma
  2. How to use a semicolon
  3. When to use apostrophes
  4. The oxford comma


Academic writing requires that there is accuracy and consistency in verb tense use. Your writing will be much clearer to the writer if you avoid unnecessary shifts in tense. You should generally use past tense to describe findings or work that others have done (e.g. the researchers presented; Patterson (2012) described…)

Go to the following TEDEd website for a video on the use of tense:

Clear Language

Choose clear and specific words. Avoid broad and general terms, such as government or hospitals, which can be ambiguous. Use more specific language. For example, you could say “members of the provincial government” or “hospitals in urban settings.” In nursing, a common error is to homogenize clients as a distinct population. For clarity, it is best to further define what you mean, e.g., “clients with congenital heart disease.”

Some words are commonly misused in scholarly writing and lead to a lack of clarity. It is recommended that students avoid using the following:

  • Mentioned—this word usually implies something that was briefly referred to. It is better to use words like: described, discussed, or stated (e.g., “Matchu et al. stated that moral distress is experienced more by novice nurses”).
  • Several—this word generally refers to three of something as opposed to a couple, which refers to two of something.
  • Proves—in nursing, this word indicates that you have evidence that supports the claim. Unless the claim is statistically proven with high quality evidence, it’s better to use words like: indicates or suggests.
  • Correlates—in nursing, this word refers to a relationship between two things that is supported by statistical data; otherwise, it’s best to use words like “corresponds” or “is associated with”.





Foundations for Success in Nursing: Manual Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Malo and Maggie Convey. All Rights Reserved.

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