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How to Write a (Journal) Paper After Reading the Instructions for Authors Don Ylvisaker, UCLA Writing Have something to say? If so, want people to read it? Writing Have something to say? If so, want people to read it? How to Write Keep it short and to the point! (Say it well!) Writing Something to say? Writing Something to say? E. J. G. Pitman 21 papers and a monograph Exponential families and sufficiency Pitman efficiency Pitman closeness Pitman estimator Writing Something to say? l. J. Good “Shorter publications list” runs to 2,378 items Cryptography “Estimation of Probabilities” book Contingency tables Writing Want people to read it? Writing Want people to read it? Start with the title! Brad Efron - "Better Bootstrap Confidence Intervals” Writing Start with the title! Brad Efron - "Better Bootstrap Confidence Intervals” Ed Leamer - “Let’s Take the Con Out of Econometrics” Writing Start with the title! Brad Efron - "Better Bootstrap Confidence Intervals” Ed Leamer - “Let’s Take the Con Out of Econometrics” Andy Gelman - “Ethics and the statistical use of prior information” Writing Start with the title! Brad Efron - "Better Bootstrap Confidence Intervals” Ed Leamer - “Let’s Take the Con Out of Econometrics” Andy Gelman - “Ethics and the statistical use of prior information” Xiao-Li Meng - “Statistics Departments: Time for a Second Divorce?” How to Write Keep it short and to the point! How short is short? Lengths of published papers in Statistica Sinica If we look at the median number of pages over a year’s volume, we find: Year Median 1996 1997 16 17 2001 2002 17 18 2006 2007 19 20 2011 2012 23 24 Journal/Year Annals of Statistics 1981 10 1996 2011 18 28 JRSS B 14 22 Statistica Sinica 16 23 How to Write Keep it short and to the point! Some words and phrases can be omitted! A few specifics Borrowing from Andy Gelman – remove all contentless words and phrases, such as: - “Of course” - “Note that” - “Interestingly” “very” - “nice” - “We can see that” - “It is important to note that” I would add: - “Let us” - “Real-life” And suggest light use of: - “Recall that” - “Becomes” - “The following” - “That is”* - “Define”* - “May” - “Will” How to Write Keep it short and to the point! Write short sentences! Use plain language! For notational simplicity, we shall drop the . subscript A such that f always refers to the derivative with the maximum order in A. For notational simplicity, we shall drop the . subscript A such that f always refers to the derivative with the maximum order in A. For simplicity, we drop the subscript A from fA. However, such assumption may not be always realistic because (the variables) are vulnerable to the presence of outlying observations. However, such assumption may not be always realistic because (the variables) are vulnerable to the presence of outlying observations. However, this is not always realistic because of outlying observations. How to Write Keep it short and to the point! Omit some text! Omit extraneous text! “For a ____ random vector we establish the following proposition which is important for our further research.” “The extensions to arbitrary censoring are immediate. For example . . . “We first introduce some necessary notation for the theorem below.” “This theorem is very useful and crucial when we derive the rate of convergence for the above MLE in Section 3.4.” “The following corollary establishes the asymptotic properties of the estimator based on (10).” “We show that XXX can be represented by a quadratic term plus a remainder with order op(1), that is, XXX = ____.” Taken together, in the words of a writing instructor: “Each sentence, each word, must pass this test: does the reader need to know this?” How to Write Keep it short and to the point! Some suggestions Treat space as a scarce commodity! Limit the discussion to your work! Limit references to the directly relevant! Reference rather than repeat results! How to Write Keep it short and to the point! Further suggestions Number and display only as necessary! Keep assumptions and theorems short! Keep asides to a minimum! (Simulations were carried out!) Writing Some general advice Respect the reader’s ability to think, to read, to recall! - Repetition gets boring, Repetition gets boring, . . . - cf. Abstract to Introduction to Conclusion - Most readers know some literature! Stick to your story! - Don’t dwell on the shortcomings of other procedures! - Let the reader judge yours! - Avoid unnecessary excursions! Consider the Supplementary Materials option! Rethink text as to content (during and after writing it) Read text aloud for its cadence (under your breath, if out in public) Recruit a writing referee (as thought useful)