Wissenschaftliches Schreiben/English

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On this page, we have collected links, tips, and pages related to English grammar, style, and terms for non-native (especially German) speakers.


British or American English?

  • American English is used at KIT[1].
    • Exceptions to this are texts for the European Commission or the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres for which the British spelling is to be used[2].
  • IEEE recommends to use the American spelling instead of the British spelling for contents on their IEEE pages[3].
  • Elsevier accepts both British and American English for texts, but not a mix of both[4].


Headings in (American) English are written with capital letters, except for

  • articles (the, a / an),
  • pronouns (his, her, which, ...),
  • and binding words (in, at, of, ...)

if they are not at the beginning of the sentence. The same applies if two words are hyphenated (e.g., Peer-to-Peer-Based)[5].


  • Commas after i.e. and e.g.: The use of commas here is disputed in style guides[6]. American style guides recommend to put a comma after both. A British style guide (Fowler) recommends not to use a comma.
  • Commas after introductory clauses: If a sentence is started with an adverb phrase (showing time, place, degree, extent, cause, or condition), a comma has to be used[7].
    • Before the curtain fell, the actors bowed.
    • If the next two nights are sellouts, the play will be extended.
  • In enumerations, the last 'and' is preceded by a comma[8].
    • United Kingdom, United States of America, and Germany.
  • For numbers, the use of period and comma is the opposite of German: Decimal places are separated by dots, thousands are separated by commas[9].
    • 2.5 million inhabitants
    • 300,000 houses
    • use siunitx in LaTeX to format numbers automatically


  • Make the paragraph the unit of composition: See Strunk and White, rule 8. Maybe this rule is implicitly quite clear to everyone, but it is good to read it again and see the rule description itself as an example.
    • One paragraph discusses one subject, thought, or topic.
    • The first sentence of a paragraph should direct the reader and tell him what to expect or make a transition from the topic in the previous paragraph.
  • Be careful in the use of passive voice. You have two options: You either completely try to avoid passive voice or, when you use it, you "make sure the actor is not ambiguous, be careful to check for dangling modifiers, and avoid abusive nominalizations" [1].
    • For details, check Duke U's advice for grad students: Passive Voice in Scientific Writing with more hints on passive voice.
    • Even more details: David M. Schultz writes: "In Eloquent Science (pp. 76-77), I advocate that first-person pronouns are acceptable in limited contexts. Avoid their use in rote descriptions of your methodology (“We performed the assay…”). Instead, use them to communicate that an action or a decision that you performed affects the outcome of the research." Are first-person pronouns acceptable in scientific writing? (Blog Entry).
  • Do not use contractions ("haven't" instead of "have not") as they are part of informal writing, see also APA Style blog
    • According to Chicago Manual of Style, contractions can sometimes be used, because "used thoughtfully, contractions in prose sound natural and relaxed and make reading more enjoyable". See also [2]


Approach, Method, Technique


"What is a method? More than four decades ago Edward Anthony (1963) gave us a definition that has admirably withstood the test of time. His concept of “method” was the second of three hierarchical elements, namely approach, method, and technique.

  • An approach, according to Anthony, was a set of assumptions dealing with the nature of language, learning, and teaching.
  • Method was described as an overall plan for systematic presentation of language based upon a selected approach.
  • Techniques were the specific activities manifested in the classroom that were consistent with a method and therefore were in harmony with an approach as well."

Example: approach (model-based performance prediction in Balsamo2004-TSE), method (Palladio steps and activities described in Koziolek2006-CBSE), technique (PCM metamodel, SimuCom applied according to Palladio method as described in Becker2009-JSS). TODO: verify if this is correct.


  • Business-related: work per time, output of a company, revenues
  • Timing-behaviour-related: response time, throughput of a computer system

Frequently used terms

The English translations for KIT-relevant terms have been officially summarized in an online glossary. The following table serves as an excerpt and supplement of terms frequently used at the chair.

English German
Architecture-driven Requirements Engineering Architekturgetriebene Anforderungstechnik
Institute for Program Structures and Data Organization Institut für Programmstrukturen und Datenorganisation
KIT Department of Informatics KIT-Fakultät für Informatik
Master of Science in Computer Science Master in Informatik
Palladio Component Model Palladio-Komponentenmodell
Research Center for Information Technology Forschungszentrum Informatik (FZI)
Software Design and Quality Software-Entwurf und -Qualität




  • Basic use of articles of the Purdue Writing Lab.
  • Articles with acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms: forum.wordreference.com thread 1 and thread 2. Anne's conclusion: It should be "the PCM" and "the UML".
  • TODO: Guide for advanced use (as it is different than in German! and the simple rules do not always apply).


General guides

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., original version from von 1919(?). It has been revised in the mean time, but that is not available online. Ask Anne for the 1979 version (edited by White and foreword by Angell). Newer versions are available in the CS library.
  • English Style Guide -- A handbook for authors and translators in the European Commission by the European Commission Directorate-General for Translation.
  • Advice on how to edit your own paper by Tao Xie

See also