Guidelines for writing the English parts of an Acta Scientiae Circumstantiae article


Pamela Holt, Ph.D., English Editor


Typical section labels:


Materials and Methods (note: both are plural) or Experimental


Discussion (not plural, Discussions)

Conclusions (or Conclusion)

References (always plural – you never list only 1 paper!)




Titles must describe the subject and the field of study.  Write informative, but brief titles that describe your work, and distinguish it from the work of others.


Do not start with ‘A Study of…’, ‘Experiments on…’ etc. This is obvious.


“Experimental analysis of a new wastewater adsorbent”

Poor title.  No information is given about the adsorbent.  Studies are assumed to be ‘experimental’ unless otherwise stated.


 “Theoretical study of the adsorption properties of an adsorbent made from corn stover”

OK title.  Still could be a bit more detailed.  What does it adsorb? What field does the work belong to?


 “Theoretical analysis of the heavy metal (Cr, Cd, Hg) adsorption properties of a wastewater adsorbent made from corn stover”

Good title.  More detail is given and the field of application is clear.


“Theoretical analysis using Gaussian 03 of the heavy metal (Cr, Cd, Hg) adsorption properties of a domestic wastewater adsorbent made from hydrolyzed corn stover treated with a cross-linking agent”

Too long.  Only include enough detail to distinguish your study from others.  Put the other information in the abstract.


Avoid grouping many large words together with no small words (prepositions)


“air pollution remediation computational model”

à “computational model for air pollution remediation”


Do not use abbreviations in your title, unless they are familiar to all readers of this journal. (DNA, IR)




a) Start with your purpose.

One or two sentences giving the context for your study are sufficient.  Put the rest of the background in the Introduction.

b) Briefly describe the experiment(s) and the major results.

You do not need to say “The results showed that…” every time.

c) End with a concluding sentence.  But don’t repeat yourself.


Define all abbreviations at first use in the abstract. Do not make unnecessary abbreviations. If a term is short (e.g. corn stover), do not abbreviate it.



Use past tense for your experiments.

“The SBR was run at an HRT of 24 h.”

Use past perfect for other people’s work, not your own.

“Mercury pollution has been shown to cause cellular damage.”

Use present tense for things in the paper.

“The mechanism is discussed.” “The data are presented.”

Use present tense for facts.

“Taihu lake suffers from eutrophication.”

“Ozone levels in Beijing exceed the national standards more than 50% of the time.”


Transition words and phrases:

Use few transition words – abstracts should use as few words as possible.  If your sentences follow logically from one to the other, transitions are not necessary.  “Subject-verb-object” sentences are simple and easy to understand. 


Transitions such as “The results show that…, However,…In addition,…To measure…” “On the other hand…” are overused.  “Meanwhile” is for novels, not scientific articles. 


You may use ‘we’.

It is acceptable to use ‘we’ as the subject of a sentence, especially in place of ‘The article’ or ‘This paper’.


  “This article presents the results of a study on modeling material flows in a city.”

Slow beginning.

  “We present a model for material flows in a city.”

Clear and concise.

“This paper studied…” 

Not accurate.  Papers don’t study. Scientists do.


“We …”

“This paper describes...”

“A model for …is described.”


Do not make a sentence do too much.  Keep the logic clear. 

Do not connect complete sentences with commas (,) or semi-colons (;). Divide them into separate sentences.


Make sure all your sentences are sentences, not just clauses.  Sentences beginning with ‘While…’ or ‘Whereas…’ are likely to be fragments, not complete sentences.


Avoid long lists of nouns and adjectives with no small words.  e.g. “long noun adjective list sentences” These may work in Chinese, but are confusing in English.


Only include terms that are NOT in the title.  The purpose of keywords is to provide additional terms for search engines to use to find your paper.  The database already includes the title.


Figures and Tables


Fig. 1 (note the space between Fig. and the number)

Table 1 (NEVER Tab. 1)


Figures generally show variations or changes or trends.  The caption does not need to say this.  Repeating the axis labels in the caption is redundant.


“The variation of nitrogen content over time” à “Nitrogen content during composting”


Schematic diagram = schematic or diagram


Sketch map = map


Most figure captions and table titles do not need to start with ‘The’.

      “The characteristics of the samples” à “Characteristics of the samples”




Always use the same formatting for all references. 


Acta Scientiae Circumstantiae reference format is:


surname1 initialA initialB, surname2 initialA initialB, surname3 initialA initialB. Year. Title of the article [type of publication]. Journal name, vol (issue): page range




Facelli J M, Picett S T A. 1974. Plant litter: its dynamics and effects on plant community structure. [J]. Botanical Reviews, 57:1-32


Wu H T, Lu X G, Yang Q, et al. 2007.The early-stage litter decomposition and its influencing factors in the wetland of the Sanjiang Plain,China. [J]. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 27(10): 4027- 4035 (in Chinese)


If the original reference is in Chinese, give both and say (in Chinese) at the end of the English version.  “Chinese” is always capitalized. (in chinese) is incorrect.


Double-check Western name order.  It is easy to confuse surnames and given names.  When in doubt, look it up on-line.  You can find references at database sites such as and Science Direct, or go to the original journal’s website.  Do not copy references from other Chinese papers, as you may be repeating their mistakes. 


Special characters for names can be found on the Symbol palette:  á č ø…

If you cannot find the correct symbol, look up the name on-line and copy it.


If you can, use a program such as Endnote to format your references correctly.  References copied from Adobe Acrobat files (.pdf files) commonly have misspellings from character recognition mistakes by the software.  Check them carefully.


English Grammar Points


Turn on and use the spelling and grammar checkers in Word.  They will help you catch mistakes (red and green underlines).


There is always a space after single punctuation marks (. , : ;) but never before them.

There are spaces before and after parentheses (like these) or brackets [these are brackets], but not inside.


In English, there is a space between a number and its unit.  Consider them as 2 words.

      5 g 2 h    2.6 x 10-3 mol/L

Exception: there is no space before degree symbols.  10°C, 45° angle.


Do not use contractions. (isn’t, don’t, we’re…)  They’re informal.


Always put an ‘and’ before the last item in a list. 

“We measured the effect of pH, concentration of substrate, and temperature on the reaction.”


Avoid ‘respectively’.  Most of the time, it is used incorrectly.  Even if it is used correctly, it is indirect and can be confusing.


Comparative words must be used in comparisons. 

“At higher pH, the efficiency drops.”

Higher than what? Be specific.

“At pH > 8, the efficiency drops off sharply.”


“by” a method or a person. “The samples were measured by UV spectrometry.”

“with” a thing. “The samples were analyzed with a UV spectrometer.”

“by using” is redundant.  Say “by” or “using” but not both.


The past tense of ‘fit’ is ‘fit’. Describe the “fit” to a line as follows:

The reaction fit first order reaction kinetics well. 

The reaction is best described by the Langmuir isotherm.

The data were fit to the model.


“Character” should almost always be “characteristics” (and almost always plural)

      “The characteristics of the material were investigated.”


“Conditions” is nearly always plural

      “The optimized conditions were as follows:”

      “The samples were stored under the following conditions:”


Note that I, II, III, IV, V… are made of ordinary capital letters in English.  Special characters are not needed.