Table 1.

Measures of writing style

ComponentMeaningMethod of measurementReferences
Word countWord count is the most apparent component of an abstract. Longer abstracts include more ideas, but this can come at the expense of clarity.Number of words in the abstract.7, 8, 11
SettingSetting gives context by placing the research in a time or place.If the abstract explicitly mentioned a time or place, the abstract scored 1. Otherwise, it scored 0.7
NarratorNarrator refers to authors who refer to themselves in the first person.If the authors used the words “we” or “I,” the abstract scored 1. Otherwise, it scored 0.1, 3, 7
ConjunctionsConjunctions provide links between different ideas.We counted the number of conjunctions that denoted cause and effect, contrast, or ordering.1, 7
SignpostsSignposts provide a clear structure or order for ideas.We counted the number of times a sentence or idea was introduced by using a number or an adverb denoting order (e.g., firstly, finally).12, 13
Punctuation marksPunctuation marks link ideas in nuanced ways, enabling the author to direct the reader’s attention.We counted the number of colons, semicolons, and dashes that appeared between words.1
Consistent languageConsistent language reduces complexity by using consistent terminology.We counted the number of times a word or phrase in a sentence was the same as a word or phrase in the sentence immediately before but only where the meaning was the same.1, 7, 12
Parallel phrasingParallel phrasing reduces complexity by using a consistent sentence structure.We counted the number of times that the subject of a sentence was the same as the subject immediately before it.1
HedgingHedging uses qualifiers (e.g., largely, has the potential to, may) to dampen the confidence of statements.We counted the number of adverbs, prepositional phrases, and auxiliary verbs that were used to hedge.1, 3, 12
AcronymsAcronyms shorten phrases to save space, but they also reduce the clarity of the phrase’s meaning.We counted the number of times acronyms were used. We did not count acronyms that were not defined in the text because some acronyms appear in day-to-day language (e.g., DNA).1, 11, 13
Noun chunksNoun chunks are strings of multiple consecutive nouns. Noun chunks connect objects or ideas in ambiguous ways.We counted the number of chunks of three or more nouns (e.g., biodiversity conservation concern; distance education practice).1, 12, 13
  • We analyzed each abstract for 11 measurable components. The components represented the principles of clarity, creativity, and narrative structure and were derived from psychology, English, and science communication.