Fussy Professor Starbuck's Cookbook of Handy-Dandy Prescriptions for Ambitious Academic Authors


Why I Hate Passive Verbs and Love My Word Processor


Spring 1999


General Topics



Clarity should be your primary goal.

Exhibit good taste and use correct grammar.






Your writing determines

whether people read what you have to say,

whether they understand it,

whether they agree with it, and

whether they remember it.

You have to pursue each of these goals somewhat independently: If you ignore any of these goals, your publications will fall short of their potential impacts by attracting fewer readers than they could, by conveying less information than they could, by persuading or motivating fewer readers than they could, or by drawing fewer citations than they could.

Just get it onto paper.

Worry about big issues of what to say and when to say it, not details of precisely how to say it.

Start with a seductive introduction.

Tell a story.

Defend an implausible statement.

Contradict an authority.

Contradict common sense.

For example, Daft and Weick began their article on "Organizations as interpretation systems" (AMR, 1984) by saying "Consider the game of 20 questions. Normally in this game one person. . . . Organizations play 20 questions."

End with a memorable conclusion.

Do not point out that this manuscript does not answer all questions or that more research is needed. These are clichés.

Point out a few practical implications.

Tell a story.

Spring a surprise.

Give your findings an ironic twist.

Put the main ideas into the introduction and conclusion.

Readers are most likely to remember the last thing they read; they are next most likely to remember the first thing they read; they are least likely to remember material that was in the middle. Therefore, you should put the most important information at the end of a manuscript and at its beginning.

An introduction should

persuade readers that they want to read the whole manuscript

convince readers that you are a credible source of information

give readers a map of the manuscript - what is to come.

A conclusion should

summarize the manuscript's main arguments and conclusions

make readers feel happy that they read the manuscript

You cannot make readers feel satisfied by discussing the deficiencies of your study. Discuss deficiencies and the need for further studies earlier, perhaps where you describe your methodology, perhaps where you analyze your findings.

Thus, together, an introduction and conclusion should provide a rather complete document - one that motivates readers, orients them, and provides them with the most important information.

Maintain a logical flow (AB --> BC --> CD)

from sentence to sentence,

from paragraph to paragraph, and

from section to section.

A finished document should flow linearly from the first words in the first sentence to the final words in the final sentence. Readers should understand the first sentence without reading any other part of the document. They should understand the second sentence without reading anything except the first sentence, and the second sentence should continue the first sentence logically and, often, grammatically. Readers should understand the third sentence after reading only the first two sentences, and the third sentence should follow the second sentence logically and grammatically.

Tell readers the structure.

Outline the document at the end of the introduction.

Put reminders at the ends of sections.

Put topic sentences at the beginnings of sections.

Put topic sentences at the beginnings of paragraphs.

Put the main points at the beginnings or ends of paragraphs.

Summarize the whole document near the end. Restate the key points.

Try to perceive your writing as a reader would.





After you have it on paper, copyedit it.

Writing a manuscript constitutes no more than a beginning, and it should take perhaps half of the writing time. Copyediting should take the other half.

Copyediting can instigate revolutions. When you examine your ideas in microscopic detail, you may discover that basic concepts need drastic revisions. And nitpicking through your words may show you that paragraphs or sections ought to follow different sequences.


Clarity should be your primary goal.

Stay within your data.

Inferences about changes: Cross-sectional data provide no basis for talking about changes over time. To fabricate a longitudinal theory from cross-sectional data is specious science, and cross-sectional theories can be interesting in their own right. Yet authors of cross-sectional studies drew the following inferences:

Size is a good predictor of

Changes in size lead to changes in

As an organization becomes larger through more personnel, its structural complexity becomes larger.

as organizations become larger, (1) structuring of activities increases and (2) managerial decision making becomes more decentralized and autonomous. Organizational efficiency increases with these personnel additions.

If the number of departments and branches increase[s], efficiency declines.

The increases in size cause new jobs, departments, branches and levels.

as state control increases, so does the likelihood of

as the number of specialized functional areas increases, more documentation of rules and procedures is required

Over time, we find female salaries lose additional ground.

while signaling does lead to loose coupling

Rate of development in organizational structure as company size increased was related to

Those who attended the elite schools experience greater rewards as years pass.

If you have time-series data from which to draw inferences about changes, then use statistical techniques that are appropriate to time series. If you have only cross-sectional data, then draw inferences appropriate to such data - compare larger organizations with smaller ones, or compare older people with younger ones, or compare newspapers with pharmaceutical firms.

Causal inferences: Although one might try to gather data about causality - such as time-series data at very close intervals - virtually no research does this. Thus, one should rarely draw causal inferences from data, and never draw causal inferences from cross-sectional data. However, authors of cross-sectional studies made the following statements.

Organizational size seemed to have a negative effect on the salaries.

nor was there significant effect of

Years since the degree, being older, having longer tenure, working in smaller firms, and being located in an urban area positively influenced wage attainments.

Size has a more pervasive effect on administrative control processes in U.S. organizations.

The results reveal significant direct effects for technology on dimensions of organizational control.

Inferences about rationales: If you want to study rationales, ask people about them. Do not infer people's rationales from the consequences of their actions. For example, do not interpret correlations between salaries and employees' characteristics as disclosing rationales used by salary administrators; salaries result from interactions between numerous salary administrators and numerous actual and potential employees, each of whom may have a different rationale.

we will attempt to explore the rationale for the use [by subjects] of variables such as X and Y in decision making about Z

By examining these characteristics under varying conditions, we hope to illuminate better their roles in [other people's] decisions.

Perceptions: When describing perceptual data, frequently insert words such as perceive, believe, think, and say. Do not misrepresent perceptual data - such as questionnaire responses - as objective facts about which everyone would agree.

Teaching skills are largely protected --> Unit heads imply that teaching skills are largely protected

core activities are examined by managers --> managers say they supervise core activities

Further, internal use of evaluation is quite low. --> Further, the respondents perceive quite low internal use of evaluation.

less than half of the agencies make frequent use of --> less than half of the interviewees reported frequent use of

Generalizations: Do not draw conclusions about all organizations from observations of some organizations, or conclusions about all people (tasks, environments, roles, decisions) from data concerning some people (tasks, environments, roles, decisions). In particular, beware of over-generalizing inadvertently through inappropriate singular nouns. The following statement, for example,

"The rational model asserts that the role of new structure is to maintain or increase task control and coordination, while the institutional model asserts that structure is added to indicate conformity to institutional pressures and has a minor internal role."

might be interpreted to mean:

The only conceivable rational model asserts that all organizations always introduce new structures solely to maintain or increase task control and coordination, whereas the only conceivable institutional model asserts that all organizations always add new structures almost exclusively to indicate conformity to institutional pressures and all organizations always assign minor internal roles to new structures.

Would your reaction have been different if the authors of the foregoing statement had said the following instead?

One rational model asserts that some new structures maintain or increase task control and coordination, whereas one institutional model asserts that some organizations sometimes add new structures mainly to indicate conformity to institutional pressures, and so these new structures may perform minor internal roles. Of course, some new structures may perform none of these roles, and other new structures may simultaneously maintain task control, increase coordination, perform other internal roles, and indicate conformity to institutional pressures. Other rational models may assert that rationality entails creating new structures in order to indicate conformity to institutional pressures, and other institutional models may assert that conforming to institutional pressures does not preclude benefits from internal effects.

Match singulars with singulars, and plurals with plurals.

Illogical and ungrammatical singulars or plurals usually involve singular nouns where plural nouns should appear.

the technical and social basis for wage attainments --> bases

are themselves the result of --> results

the role of causal attributions in organizational responses --> roles

the role of individuals in relation to the organization --> organizational roles

the properties of the environment of particular organizations --> environments

the number and size distribution of sellers and buyers in different industrial sectors --> numbers, distributions

the internal structure of organizational forms --> structures

The impact of role diversity, job level, and organizational size --> impacts

the height of barriers --> heights

the level of social phenomena --> levels

the extent and character of product differentiation (in various industries) --> extents, characteristics

the cognitive and motivational orientation of decision makers --> orientations

the location of particular organizational forms and species --> locations

proponents of this approach have analyzed the impact of deviations --> impacts

populations from which the degree of horizontal interdependence in the niche --> degrees, niches

Multiplicative interaction terms in regression analysis limit the form of the interaction --> analyses, forms, interactions

the temporal and spacial scope of the relevant models --> scopes

The senior human-resource executive from 65 companies --> executives

Persons with the necessary characteristics for the position end up with the positions. --> positions

Proxies can be seen as varying on a number of dimensions, including the degree of the relationship of the proxy to --> degrees, relationships, proxies

The organizational task environment and the residual environment is specified. --> are

The results suggests --> suggest

The criteria is an issue --> criterion

A criteria of growth has been used --> criterion

this criteria --> criterion

a criteria --> criterion

those persons deserving of an opportunity --> opportunities

variables whose relationship to --> relationships

factors which vary in their locus --> loci

illuminate better their role in --> roles

views actors within organizations as a determinant of managerial behavior; also as actors who view themselves as a constituent --> determinants, constituents

institutions play a key role --> roles

they serve as a proxy for --> proxies

a lack of fit results from a deviation --> deviations

actions organizations undertake when confronted with a downturn --> downturns

Most organizations, at some point in their life, --> points, lives

population ecology views populations only as aggregates of organizations sharing a common form --> forms

organizations attempt to mold environmental structures or to imprint themselves onto their task environment --> environments

Companies could be nominated in more than one category --> Each company attributions are influenced by characteristics of the outcome, the organization, and --> outcomes, organizations

Some organizations occupy narrow niches since their degree of specialization permits them to exploit intensively a narrow range of resources --> degrees, ranges

Correlations among structure and context --> structures, contexts [In general, one needs more than three structures and more than three contexts even to calculate a single correlation.]

a number of relationships between niche type and organizational form --> types, forms

observed associations between the situation and response strategies --> situations

Do the corporation whose structure is matched to strategy show superior performance to those which are mismatched? --> Do corporations perform better when their structures match their strategies?

Distinguish between definite articles and indefinite articles.

Many singular-plural problems arise because authors use definite articles (the) where they ought to use indefinite articles (a, an). In particular, authors frequently use definite articles with singular nouns where they should use plural nouns.

The definite article (the) denotes a specific, nameable instance. The environment means one specific environment, such as the British steel industry or Indianapolis; and the organization means one specific, nameable organization, such as Control Data or the University of Wyoming. An indefinite article (a, an) designates a typical, nonspecific instance. Thus, an environment means one typical environment, and an organization means one typical organization.

the work unit is the smallest collective group in the organization --> work units constitute the smallest collective groups in organizations

viewing them as the result of --> viewing them as results of

which regulates the economic process --> that regulates economic processes the role that organizational taxonomies can play --> the roles that organizational taxonomies can play

the allocation of positions to individuals --> the allocations of positions to individuals

the role of institutional factors in the economic process the roles of institutional factors in economic processes

the rationale for the use of variables such as --> the rationales for using variables such as

the task environment of populations of organizations --> the task environments of organizational populations

the context within which organizations must operate --> organizations' contexts

the properties of the environment of organizations --> organizations' environments

the internal structure of organizational forms --> organizations' structures

how decision makers frame or formulate the problem will influence their response --> how decision makers formulate problems influences their responses

buyer power is concentrated in the vertical flow --> buyer power concentrates in the vertical flows

top management decision makers are responsible for positioning the organization --> top managers should position their organizations

Although the total sample may --> Although a total sample may

the firm's labor costs --> a firm's labor costs

Confusion of definite and indefinite articles causes serious substantive problems throughout the social sciences. For example, their penchant for saying the organization has allowed organization theorists to gloss over the differences between organizations and to speak as if all organizations act the same. Similarly, by saying the environment, organization theorists have understated the degrees to which environments are ambiguous, diverse, and selected. Indeed, organization theorists should normally speak of one organization facing multiple environments: Most organizations deal with diverse task environments because they perform multiple tasks, but even an organization that faces just one task environment would possess multiple potential environments and multiple nontask environments.

Note the misinterpretations that could arise from speaking of the theory of the firm, the regulatory process, or the decision-making process. The homogeneity of social phenomena ought to be established empirically rather than rhetorically.

Avoid general words; use specific words.

health-care institution --> mental hospital or, even better, Happydale Nursing Home

they improved their situation --> they garnered power, or they made more profit

handle conflict --> reduce dissent

objective environment --> industry

financial performance --> profit

market power --> profit

organizations --> firms --> corporations

relation between X and Y --> correlation between X and Y

marketing subunit --> advertising department or sales office

the units were connected --> a sequential work flow linked the units

Particularly, do not give a concept two names, one theoretical and the other operational. Too often, social scientists have reported and pompously interpreted as meaningful correlations between vague, global variables when, in fact, these correlations resulted from tautological or commonplace relationships between the actual measures.

Use only one term per concept; avoid synonyms.

What you may regard as interesting variety may cause your readers confusion or complete bewilderment. Once you have referred to the clients, for instance, continue to call them the clients and do not refer to them as the beneficiaries or the program's participants. Similarly, if you have designated someone as the consultant, maintain this label and do not substitute the change agent, the intervener, or the facilitator. Various authors used the following terms as synonyms:

external realities = environmental circumstances interface problems = coordination tasks

goals = outcomes = interests behavior = actions

results = findings

marketing subunit = marketing department commitment = attachment

causal texture of environment = objective environment = industry environment

rules = regulation

organization = firm

Write complete sentences.

Rarely or never use sentence fragments such as these:

Still less, to move into the fascinating area of drawing out differences among the departmental subcultures within it.

Telling Larry that more time must be spent on the modifications.

So much for the sins of omission. Now for a short discussion of the sins of commission.

Diane's unrealistic expectations for what the Order Entry program could accomplish.

Guns and ammunition.

One being Quality Control, which would be under manufacturing, and the other would be . . . .

As defect finding and removal have been major objectives for years, and no results have been obtained.

Use parallel phrasings.

making decisions and to create and maintain systems of shared meaning --> making decisions and creating and maintaining systems of shared meaning, or to make decisions and to create and maintain systems of shared meaning

those who have praised Agee's investment strategy but have been critical of his --> those who have praised Agee's investment strategy but have criticized his

Agencies serving users accept the Coalition's help but fail to finance the Coalition and inhibits an independent distribution system. --> Agencies serving users accept the Coalition's help but contribute no funds to the Coalition; this arrangement inhibits the Coalition from serving users independently.

import restrictions and export subsidies. Any effort by business to achieve these goals, as well as examination of how and in what direction big business has attempted to influence exchange rate policies, definitely should be within the purview of this book. --> This book should encompass all of business's efforts to obtain import restrictions or export subsidies, and it should examine the ways big business has attempted to influence exchange-rate policies.

Reference frames may also vary in content, with one organization's collective frame of reference best typified as "entrepreneurial," while that of another as "scientific" or "humanistic," as illustrated by the organizational studies conducted by Litterer and Young. --> Reference frames may exhibit primarily entrepreneurial, scientific, or humanistic orientations (Litterer and Young).

The magic number so far has been that of the four largest firms produce more than 50 or 70 percent of domestic output, a monopolistic situation exists, following the "bust 'em up" school of reasoning. [sic] --> A monopolistic situation warrants dissolution when the four largest firms produce more than half of domestic output.

Beware of short, trailing predicates.

Watch out for clauses in which short predicates - often a To Be verb and an adjective - trail after very long subjects. These make difficult reading.

But believing that firms can achieve cost leadership by accumulating volume faster along this (or another) given slope is fallacious. --> But firms cannot achieve cost leadership by accumulating volume faster along any constant slope.

To the extent that the local operation is extractive in nature or otherwise deals with natural resources, the question of the manner in which local laborers are treated is likely to be sensitive. --> Operations that exploit natural resources often mistreat laborers.

and the inability of either sociology or psychology to absorb it in a status position appropriate to its importance is becoming increasingly evident --> and events are proving that neither sociology nor psychology can absorb it in a status position appropriate to its importance

Rarely use double negatives.

Double negatives give ideas a negative, pessimistic cast and they foster convoluted logic.

If governmental process never generated negative outcomes --> If governmental processes always generated good results

Try not to use nouns as modifiers, and especially avoid long strings of nouns.

Enhance clarity by using adjectives and possessives, instead of nouns, as modifiers.

CEO rewards --> CEOs' rewards

employee beliefs --> employees' beliefs

employee ideas --> employees' ideas

individual characteristics --> individuals' characteristics, or human characteristics

member behaviors --> members' behaviors

member attitudes --> members' attitudes

the Clegg book --> Clegg's book

Organization Responses to --> Organizations' Responses to

the company position --> the company's position

top executive rewards --> top executives' rewards

the result of confirmation hypothesis testing --> confirmatory hypothesis testing

corporation profits --> corporate profits

management decisions --> managerial decisions

strategy management --> strategic management

organization behavior --> organizational behavior

organization and/or environment characteristics --> organizational or environmental characteristics (And/or is not a word.)

But do make sure that the adjectives and possessives say what you intend! One author used the phrase "personal causal models" to denote "models in which persons cause events".

When you do use a noun as a modifier, use the noun's singular form. Never put more than three nouns in a string, and avoid strings of three nouns.

in rewards systems --> in reward systems

six-months period --> six-month period

the employee job turnover phenomenon --> turnover

human resources management policy --> human-resource-management policies --> policies for managing human resources

statistical quality-control applications --> statistical quality control

state electric utility regulation --> electric-utility regulation by the states

Sometimes you can shorten a string of nouns by deleting the primary noun. Pay special attention to the words behavior, process, and system because these rarely add information.

the structural-adaptation process --> structural adaptation (Adaptation is a process by definition.)

decision-making process --> decision making (Decision making is a process by definition.)

management-information system --> managerial information (In this instance, the author was talking about information rather than about a system for gathering and storing information.)

within the organizational science discipline --> within organizational science individual turnover behavior --> turnover

Hyphenate related modifiers.

Insert hyphens between the components of compound adjectives. A compound adjective is a pair of words - either an adjective and a noun or two nouns - that jointly act as a single adjective. Thus, you should hyphenate "environmental-resource variation" because environmental-resource is a compound adjective modifying variation. You should hyphenate "population-ecology model" because population-ecology is a compound adjective modifying model. Other examples would be:

national-income accounts

industrial-classification system

management-information systems

upper-management persons

resource-dependency theories

natural-gas-distribution companies

human-resource-policy decisions

short-term trial experience

double-loop learning

order-entry program

six-month period

human-resources management

goal-linkage theory

social-accounting system

asset-reduction programs

large-sample data

natural-selection model

decision-making process

project-evaluation criteria

long-fund-raising success

the public-affairs arena

53-year life

fund-raising success

causal-loop reasoning

financial-services industries

question-and-answer session

But do not mislead your readers by hyphenating unrelated words, as did the authors who said "geographic-market location", "the managerial-role making process", and "management-organization-behavior-science discipline".

Although most journals and publishers make no distinction, high-quality publishers use two sizes of hyphens. Because they transform two or more words into one, the above examples call for narrow hyphens, the width of the character n. Wide hyphens, the width of the character m, link two words without converting them into a single term; for example, technology-structure relations, or organization-environment interactions. Wide hyphens often stand for and or versus.

Avoid quotation marks unless you cite a specific source.

Use italics (underlining) rather than quotation marks to highlight key words. Do not put quotation marks around your own words in order to pretend that you are not saying what you are saying. If your words embarrass you, use different words.

Why, for example, do you think the following authors used quotation marks? Whom are they quoting?

General hypotheses about regulatory behavior, however, are not "tested" using agency data;

It is also a "must read" for change agents who

Such employees may view their jobs as a "choice of necessity" and

A more "normal" age distribution would be possible,

to the "bottom line" explanation that stresses

and "just-in-time" materials arrival

the common American tendency to treat product quality and production planning as "swing factors" that can be traded off in order to meet the production output deadline

what has already been invested (or "sunk") in a venture

the expected "best-possible" outcome has not been realized

Classification of specific and situational strategies into "generic" strategies can prove useful to analysis and prescription.

the usual resource acquisition practice is "home" use of resources imported from a "foreign" country

Perhaps Lewin was somewhat "culture bound" in formulating his dictum.

through which they "get the message"

newcomers diagnose their "fit" to the setting

Individuals must believe in the fairness of the "system" through which rewards are distributed.

Use italics only to emphasize key words.

Do not use italics (underlining) to emphasize important words that might be overlooked: If you fear that readers might overlook an important word, you have phrased that sentence poorly, and you should rewrite it, putting the important word at the beginning or end.

Each question will be followed by an answer, the sum of such answers representing a unified perspective --> An answer follows each question. These answers add up to a unified perspective.

All the inconsistencies, ambiguities, and even cynicism of the study of organizational effectiveness aside, what does organizational behavior have to offer organizational effectiveness as a theoretical and applied issue?

--> What could organizational behavior contribute to organizational effectiveness, either theoretically or practically?

If governmental process never generated negative outcomes, political activities of the domain maintenance variety more than likely would be generally inconsistent with organizational effectiveness and long term survival. --> If governmental processes always generated good results, political activities would likely reduce organizational effectiveness and impede long-term survival.

This referent will enhance effectiveness as long as conditions of competition among subunits is sustained. --> Only if subunits compete with each other would this standard of performance enhance effectiveness.

The conditions necessary to achieve these criteria are usually present only in the case of trivial performances. --> Only when performing trivial tasks can people meet such standards.

Distinguish between must and should.

Must means that some constraint or force compels: if "some action must be taken to upgrade the capacity of the organization," the organization is always upgraded because people do not have the alternative of leaving the organization alone. In this instance, the author actually appeared to mean should rather than must: Should means that some event or action ought to happen or is very likely to happen.

turnaround attempts must address the source of the problem --> turnaround attempts should address the sources of problems

the second section reviews established approaches to organizational interdependence and suggests how they must be complemented with additional social psychological concepts --> the second section reviews established concepts of organizational interdependence and argues that theorists ought to complement these with additional social-psychological concepts

we must note that - Why must we? (In such a case, one should delete the entire phrase " we must note that."

Future research must investigate this hypothesis. - Yes Sir! I cannot disobey your command.

When prescribing, say should or ought to.

Should and ought to signal that you are talking about how things ought to be or what should happen.

The author who said "efforts at education could be given importance by a supportive management" evidently meant "managers should support educational efforts."

If you insist upon using must in a prescriptive statement, also state the condition that makes the prescribed action necessary: In order to achieve X, you must do Y.

Avoid parentheses.

Parentheses usually indicate excessively complex phrasings. Rephrase complex statements more simply.

infer the cause of performance (i.e., make attributions) prior to - If inferring one cause were precisely the same thing as making multiple attributions, this author would not have felt the need to insert the parenthetic remark. The author probably regarded causal inference as a specific instance of attribution behavior in general, but the author's statement does not explain in what ways causal inference might resemble or differ from other attribution behaviors.

Avoid footnotes.

Because a footnote requires more effort of readers than does a statement in the main body of text, you should use a footnote only for content that is more important than the main text. But this makes no sense! Thus, if readers should read a statement, include it in the main text. If it is not that important, omit it.

Be concise.

Almost any document can be shortened by 25 percent, and effective shortening increases a document's clarity. Here are some examples of changes that

report back --> report

in 27 years of existence --> in 27 years

influence of managerial choice and of existence or otherwise of organizational slack --> influences of managerial choice and organizational slack

would be expected to impact upon performance causing --> would cause

that programs should exist which would focus on --> that programs should focus on

variables that have been measured on a continuous basis --> continuous variables

the manner in which --> the way, or how

In view of a variety of factors which may influence --> Because diverse factors may influence

is at all times preserved --> persists

depending on whether the environment is variable or not --> depending on environmental variability

Studies that have been done have focused --> Studies have focused

have resulted in the company being divided --> have divided the company

This is found to explain --> This explains

Functional structure is seen as more appropriate and as offering advantages. --> Functional structures offer advantages

A general criticism which applies to virtually all of the studies assuming that organizational structure is contingent on environmental conditions is that it may be invalid to assume that appropriate adaptation of the organizational structure follows perception of environmental uncertainty, complexity, or variability. --> Mere perceptions of environmental uncertainty, complexity, or variability may not produce appropriate organizational structures.

You can usually just delete the following phrases without altering meaning:

the amount of

the case of

the characteristics of

the definition of

the issue of

the level of

the nature of

the occurrence of

the system of

the use of

the utilization of


Some of the most important causes of verbosity are: passive verbs, forms of the verb To Be, lead-in phrases, and phrases of the form article + noun + of. Eliminating these, not only highlights meaning, it also makes a document more interesting to read and clarifies causal relations. Examples of such changes appear toward the end of this document.

Keep sentences short.

Long sentences make reading difficult and they often indicate convoluted, muddy logic. Very few sentences should exceed 20 words, and long sentences should have very simple structures. Excessive length and unnecessary complexity make the following sentences hard to understand:

For instance, if a manager offers a type of help or has expectations about the degree of responsibility that should be given an employee which is in direct conflict with what the employee expects or desires, the outcome will not be satisfactory. --> For instance, dissatisfaction would likely result if a supervisor and a subordinate have disparate expectations about the subordinate's responsibilities.

Duncan later developed scales for measurement of environmental dimensions of dynamism and complexity as well as perceived environmental uncertainty and showed that perceptions of uncertainty were related to perceptions of dynamism and complexity. --> Duncan later showed that perceptions of environmental uncertainty correlate significantly with percept ions of environmental dynamism and complexity.

A key exception is found in Miles (1982) study of the cigarette industry's defense of its particular domain in light of the Surgeon General's report on the health hazards of smoking, and the TV and radio advertising ban, which well illustrates the domain defense objective of political activity. --> However, political activities may defend domains, as Miles showed in his (1982) study of cigarette companies' reactions to the Surgeon General's report on smoking.

Indeed, one of the reasons why cultural variables have been neglected in the past is that they are less obtrusive in the way they channel behaviour and govern organizational performance than more explicit, external factors such as organizational structure, control and reward systems and high- level processes of decision- making. --> Indeed, observers have neglected cultural variables partly because these channel behaviours more subtly than do organizational structures, control-and-reward systems, and high-level decisions.

Given the high level of aggregation of industry data from which the objective environmental measures are developed and the possibility that the perceptions of top management may be influenced by their personal characteristics as well as the capability of the information processing mechanisms of their organizations for monitoring and decoding environmental signals, it is interesting that a number of meaningful direct relationships are found. --> Meaningful correlations appear even though the environmental measures use very aggregated data and even though the top managers' perceptions reflect their personal characteristics and their organizations' environmental scanning.

Use simple, widely understood words.

Avoid polysyllabic words, jargon, and faddish words.

These authors even confused themselves "This taxonomic dichotomization of turnover into functional and dysfunctional categories". Why on earth would anyone want to classify turnover into dysfunctional categories?

"Based on our contacts and discussions with industry segments, we believe . . . . Industry segments mentioned above are those whose products were also perceived to be created more by . . . ." Would you want your sister to marry an industry segment?

Measure the reading level and continue editing until reading is easy.

Your goal as a writer should be to explain your ideas clearly, not to impress readers with your erudition or to demonstrate the complexity of your thinking. When journal editors criticize the ideas in a manuscript, they have very often misunderstood what the authors intended to say. Although almost all of your intended readers have doctorates, you should not assume that they understand complex language. Everyone gets much more experience reading simple language than complex language, so they read simpler language more quickly and with greater comprehension.

Word processors are capable of measuring the readability of text, and you should take advantage of this capability. Reports of social science-research can rarely be as readable as a newspaper or magazine, but it is possible to bring the reading level of social-science research down to a 12th-grade level. You should spend the time and effort to do that. To make text more readable, you mainly need (a) to substitute shorter words for longer ones and (b) break long sentences into shorter ones. The grammar checker in your word processor will identify long sentences for you. To identify long words, is more difficult, but you can do the following:

(a) make a copy of your document,

(b) eliminate punctuation, apostrophes, hyphens, and double spaces,

(c) replace spaces with carriage returns,

(d) copy the entire document and paste it into a spreadsheet,

(e) compute the length of each word,

(f) sort the words to bring the longest words to the top.

Obviously, you improve readability more by replacing the long words that occur most often.


Exhibit good taste and use correct grammar.

Do not use sexist language.

Do not assume that people are or must be male. You can avoid having to refer to sex by writing in the plural. They, their, and them do not designate a sex.

his grade might represent his competence --> their grades might represent their competences

judging his competence --> judging their competences

to show the injured party that the organization cares about his welfare --> to show injured parties that the organization cares about their welfare

An inflexible organization chart, which assumes that everyone in a given position will perform exactly as his predecessor did, is ridiculous. He won't. --> An organization is acting ridiculously if it assumes people perform exactly as their predecessors did. They never do.

He argues that man is driven by an essential dualism; he needs both to be a part of something and to stick out. --> He argues that an essential dualism drives people; they need both to belong to groups and to stick out as individuals.

The excellent companies require and demand extraordinary performance from the average man. --> And so do they also refuse to employ women?

Do not split infinitives.

An infinitive bonds the word to to a verb stem; for example

to illustrate

to support

to acknowledge

to implement

to improve

to analyze

The basic rule is that an infinitive acts like a single word. Because to face is all one word, to collectively face injects the word collectively into the middle of another word, splitting the infinitive. Here are a few other split infinitives:

to publicly acknowledge

to successfully support

to drastically improve

to simultaneously affect

to dramatically veer

to empirically determine

to successfully achieve

to eventually emerge

to measure it and explicate its properties

to invent an environment and be part of the invention

the political desire to control public spending and reduce the scale of government

to effectively and efficiently implement and to furthermore evaluate

to work together and share resources

Also, when you create a string of phrases each of which begins with an infinitive, you should repeat the to for each infinitive. For example,

in order 1) to illustrate the diversity . . . ; and 2) illustrate differences --> in order 1) to illustrate the diversity . . . ; and 2) to illustrate differences

Little time is available to review a report, discover that . . . , ensure that . . . , and determine that --> Little time is available to review a report, to discover that . . . , to ensure that . . . , and to determine that

the Committee agreed to 1) gradually reduce the . . . ; 2) give more priority to... and de-emphasize . . . ; and 3) switch to --> the Committee agreed I) to reduce gradually the . . . ; 2) to give more priority to... and to de-emphasize . . . ; and 3) to switch to

The Oxford and Merriam Webster dictionaries recently began saying that it is not grammatically incorrect to split infinitives. If you choose to split an infinitive, do so only in simple cases involving only verbs and adverbs. For instance, it seems reasonable to say "to publicly acknowledge" or "to publicly acknowledge and successfully support" because the meaning is quite clear. The meaning becomes much less clear when adjectives and nouns become involved, as in "the political desire to control public spending and reduce the scale of government."

Do not dangle modifying phrases.

Make sure that modifying phrases actually modify the words you intend. A modifying phrase that introduces a clause should modify either the subject of the clause or the verb.

"Yet in positing optimal contingent relationships between structure and strategy, the implication clearly is that some specific structure-strategy pairs yield a higher degree of effectiveness - or a lower degree - than do others." --> Yet positing optimal contingent relationships between structure and strategy clearly implies that some structure-strategy pairs yield higher effectiveness than others. ("Positing" referred to the author of the sentence, not to "implication.")

"Considering the problems in operating statewide, further expansion seems impossible." --> Because of the problems . . . . ("Considering" referred to the author of the sentence, not to "expansion.")

"Using this method, elements are randomly divided into sets of three" --> This method divides elements into sets of three ("Using this method" referred to the author of the sentence, not to "elements.")

"in assessing informal dimensions of organizational structure, elements may be coworkers, jobs, and work activities" --> coworkers, jobs, or work activities may constitute elements of organizations' informal structures

Unlearn to avoid organizational crises --> "To avoid organizational crises, unlearn"

"While we are all creatures of our environment - very sensitive and responsive to external rewards and punishments - we are also strongly driven from within, self-motivated." --> Although very responsive to external rewards and punishments, we also drive ourselves from within.

"Since giving $1000 for a Lifetime Membership [in the PTL Club], God has blessed me with a new job." --> If even God paid for a Membership, it must really be worth $1000.

A modifying phrase in a predicate clause should be adjacent to verb or noun it modifies.

"He might feel threatened by my routing projects to someone else that he felt capable of handling." --> He might feel threatened by my routing to someone else projects that he could handle. ("That he felt capable of handling" modified "projects," not "someone else.")

"we discussed our findings with the executive director for feedback and indications of support" --> we discussed our findings with the executive director and asked for feedback and support ("For feedback and indications of support" modified "discussed," not "the executive director.")

"he had experience before he came to Pseudophones with Philip Morris" --> he worked at Philip Morris before he came to Pseudophones (He had experience with Philip Morris; he did not come "to Pseudophones with Philip Morris.")

Clauses should not end with prepositions.

What were you thinking of? Didn't Miss Stansbury teach you not to use a preposition to end a sentence with?

Check the references.

Make sure that works cited in the text appear in the reference list, and vice versa.

Verify dates as well as names.

Never risk your credibility by citing works you have not seen.

Only use words that appear in some English-language dictionary.

Do not make up words such as "and/or", "operationalize", or "input" used as a verb.

Authors quite often misuse the following words -

Which - That - Who

Usually you should say that instead of which, unless which (a) serves as the object of a preposition, (b) follows a comma, or (c) indicates a question. Specifically, you should use that to initiate a restrictive clause - one that limits the meaning of the noun it modifies. For example, the following illustrate restrictive clauses:

characteristics which inhibit/facilitate --> characteristics that inhibit or facilitate

processes which link --> processes that link

organizations which do not exhibit --> organizations that lack

factors which vary --> factors that vary

advantages which apply to --> advantages that apply to

a social accounting system which includes --> a social - accounting system that includes

a second phenomenon which may provide --> a second phenomenon that may provide

a strategy which will meet the real demands --> a strategy that will meet the real demands

assumptions which allow them to make --> assumptions that allow them to make

The reconceptualization of X which flows from --> The reconceptualization of X that flows from

environments which will turn --> environments that will turn

Conversely, you should use which to initiate a nonrestrictive clause and you should set a nonrestrictive clause off with commas. For example, the following illustrate nonrestrictive clauses:

innate characteristics, which all people have,

production processes, which link inputs to outputs,

organizations, which have structures,

advantages, which bring benefits,

Never use which to denote people, and never use who or whose to denote anything except people. Do not, for instance, say "those corporations who" or "the organization whose" or "industry segments whose" or "variables whose".


The word while means during the time that or at the same time that. While does not mean whereas or even though.

these workers now value security, while they previously valued autonomy --> these workers now value security, whereas they did value autonomy

While the functional-area studies lend support for differences within firms, the remaining studies provide an overall view of factors that affect organizational performance. --> Functional-area studies disclose differences within firms, whereas other studies identify factors that affect performance.

While several studies have shown X correlates with Y and Z, no model has been developed yet. --> Even though several studies . . . .

While Fed policy makers face knowledge limitations in their tasks --> Not only do Fed policy makers lack knowledge

While both of these were relatively simple measures, they did provide some empirical confirmation --> Although both of these were simple measures, they did confirm empirically

While entry barriers provide protection from entry of firms outside the industry, mobility barriers deter the movement of firms within the industry. --> Entry barriers prevent entries of firms outside the industry, and mobility barriers deter the movements of firms within the industry.


Relatively does not mean slightly or somewhat.

Do not describe characteristics as relative if their relativity is obvious. For instance, largeness and smallness are always relative, so you should not say relatively small or relatively large. If you really want to compare, use comparative adjectives such as smaller or larger and specify a standard of comparison.

While both of these were relatively simple measures, --> Although both of these measures were simpler than (Relative to what measures were they simpler?)


Most managers are employees.

a manager and an employee who have conflicting expectations about the employee's responsibilities --> a supervisor and a subordinate who have conflicting expectations about the subordinate's responsibilities


The word limited means that definite boundaries circumscribe or prevent expansion. Limited does not mean few.

A limited number of studies --> A few studies (All numbers of studies are limited; readers know that scientists have not conducted an infinite number of studies.)

Data is a plural noun, the plural of datum.

this data --> these data

data that's been --> data that've been

this data is constructed under the assumption that --> these data assume that

Data includes such things as --> Data include such things as

even if that data is --> even if those data are

data was drawn --> data were drawn

Other singulars and plurals that authors often use incorrectly include:

medium - media

criterion - criteria

phenomenon - phenomena

focus - foci

locus - loci

basis - bases

emphasis- emphases




Avoid platitudes, clichés, obvious statements, and excessive redundancy.

Do not undercut your writing by creating the impression that you have little to say. For example:

Performances were suggested to be directly related to effectiveness.

the costs of X are very costly

Dysfunctional refers to a condition of malfunction.

Interaction is not all one general kind, but can be meaningfully distinguished in

In common parlance, this smacks of "throwing good money after bad".

and you have old wine in middle-aged bottles

Do not begin paragraphs with uninformative sentences such as these.

There are, however, fundamental limitations to such approaches.

Organizational cultures do more than filter information.

Public management does not operate in a political vacuum.

Interdependence is discussed here in terms of mutual dependence.

Roles, like tasks, are ubiquitous in organizations.

Not all industries experience the same cyclical influences . . . . Furthermore, not all occupations or job groups are uniformly affected by the business cycle.

Beware of the words obviously and clearly. If truly "It seems obvious to me that", then do not say it. Do you agree that "Clearly, the question of causality can be answered only with future research"?

Use catchy phrases and terms.

Key terms should be memorable. An excellent term conveys a great deal of information by implication. But do not overdo this: a bit is enough!

the garbage-can model of organizational decision making

organizational tents and palaces

participative management


scientific management

Theory Z


uncertainty absorption

loose coupling

Use intriguing titles and section headings.

Camping on seesaws

Knee-deep in the Big Muddy

The science of 'muddling through'

The technology of foolishness

Making sense with nonsense: helping frames of reference clash

'I knew it would happen': Remembered probabilities of once-future things

Speaking truth to power

A trip to view the elephants and rattlesnakes in the Garden of Aston

Making news by doing work

The structure of 'unstructured' decision processes

A theory of optimally imperfect decision making

Avoid long titles and titles that include colons.

Make the main title say it. A title need not be a synopsis, and a long title may say less than a short one.

Heads I win, tails it's chance: The illusion of control as a function of the sequence outcomes in a purely chance task --> Heads I win, tails it's chance

Accessing information in memory-based impression judgments: Incongruity versus negativity in retrieval selectivity --> Remembering strange events and bad ones

Countercyclical hiring as a staffing strategy for managers and professional personnel: Some considerations and issues --> Countercyclical hiring of managers and professionals

Man versus model of man: A rationale, plus some evidence, for a method of improving clinical inferences --> How to draw better clinical inferences

The contradiction of domination and production in bureaucracy: The contribution of organizational efficiency to the decline of the Roman Empire --> Why domination brought down the Roman Empire

Strategy and multinational organization structure: An interorganizational relationships perspective --> How multinationals should organize

Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: Biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm --> What I did and they did

Examples should be clear, familiar, and sometimes fanciful.

Do not advertise your ideas as being new, or criticize others' ideas for not being new.

Nearly all news is only noise, and a scientific journal should differ from a newspaper. More important than newness of scientific contributions are their accuracy, clarity, generality, persuasiveness, relevance, usefulness, and validity.

Avoid academic quibbles.

Do not label ideas as belonging to specific disciplines. Do not argue about the proper dividing lines between, say, psychology and sociology.

Avoid first-person and second-person pronouns.

First-person pronouns do sometimes serve well, but you should recognize the disadvantages of saying I, we, our or you. When you refer explicitly to yourself, you remind your readers that they are reading your ideas, not their ideas; and consequently you make it more difficult for your readers to adopt your ideas as their own. Thus, taking credit for your ideas makes your writing less persuasive and gives your ideas less impact. For example,

In this paper we argue that focusing on --> Focusing on

It is my assumption that the support problems stated are common to any bank service bureau. --> Such support problems afflict any bank service bureau.

I will concentrate my efforts on the coordination mechanisms between departments. --> This research focuses on coordination between departments.

We suggest, furthermore, that assessing --> Furthermore, assessing

In presenting our typology, we will therefore give concrete examples --> Concrete examples illustrate each type.

For similar reasons, do not talk about the reader or the author.

When you prescribe, state your goals: In order to achieve X, do Y.

Statements of the form Do Y appear opinionated and highhanded, whereas statements of the form To achieve X, do Y do not.

Avoid the past and future tenses, use the present tense.

The present tense keeps readers more involved than do the past or future tenses. But do use past tenses when attributing quotations or ideas to people; Max Weber may no longer be saying what he once said.

Obey Ames's Law:

Active verbs > Adverbs > Adjectives > Nouns > Passive verbs or To Be verbs

where > stands for work better than.

Ed Ames regarded this law as a way to hold readers' interest, and he was right. Passive verbs, To Be verbs, and nouns make boring reading and they also produce verbose phrasings.

But more importantly, passive verbs and nouns seem to encourage social scientists to view themselves as passive observers, to see other people as puppets of impersonal forces, and to build static theories. Using static words to describe reality leads scientists to create static frames of reference, to view social worlds as stable, and thus to overlook dynamic events. Using active verbs and adverbs, on the other hand, subtly encourages scientists to notice changes and reactions and histories, and to see themselves as actual and potential actors.

The basic rule for converting to active phrasings is: identify the source of action and make this actor the subject of the sentence. To do this, you have to analyze causality, with the result that you may have to explicate processes that you had previously left implicit. Not only does this make your theories clearer, it also makes them more dynamic.

Eliminate passive verbs.

You can often convert passive verbs merely by substituting active verbs.

First, the three approaches are briefly introduced --> The first section introduces the three approaches

Data are then presented to examine --> The ensuing section presents data about

Conclusions will be drawn --> The final section draws conclusions regarding the data we have been offered to date --> the published data

The data were obtained from --> The data came from

perceptions were related to structure --> perceptions correlated with structure

Our analysis is constrained, and limited, to those characteristics covered by the survey. --> This analysis focuses on the survey data.

These concepts are drawn from --> These concepts arise from

The concept is borrowed from --> The concept originated in

Some attention has been devoted to this issue --> This issue has attracted attention

The appropriateness of X has often been subjected to critical review --> Many critics have pointed out deficiencies of X

The potential value of X has been overlooked by other writers --> Other writers have overlooked the potential value of X

efforts are to be applauded --> efforts deserve applause

when findings representing only one approach are presented --> when findings reflect only one approach

until comparative studies are conducted that assess --> until comparative studies assess

the principal characteristic by which it is classified as --> the principal characteristic for classifying it as

rational processes for such linkages tend to be offered or are inferred --> researchers concoct post hoc rationales for such linkages

whether the credential was obtained in a part-time or full-time program of study --> whether students earned their degrees through part-time or full-time study

if selections of persons for positions are made in such a way that persons with the necessary characteristics for the position end up with the positions --> if qualified persons end up occupying appropriate positions

policies are formulated to reflect these concerns --> policies reflect these concerns

what characteristics are associated with --> what characteristics correlate with

When service industries are classified, behavioral routines and mutual agreements between must be scrutinized --> When economists classify service industries, they scrutinize behavioral routines and mutual agreements between

These latter studies have each examined . . . . Yet relationships were found --> These latter studies found relationships

production technology by which establishments can be assigned to an industry and by which industries may be differentiated --> production technology by which to assign establishments to industries and to differentiate industries

This is achieved by analyzing the environment as --> This framework treats the environment as

what strategies are likely to be found effective under what conditions --> the conditions under which various strategies prove effective

some strategies were found to be more effective than others --> some strategies worked better than others

Eliminate phrases of the form: To Be + adjective

The properties of the environment are in part characteristic of --> Environmental properties partly characterize

scenarios in which these factors are irrelevant to --> scenarios in which these factors do not influence

Decision makers were responsible for scanning --> Decision makers scanned

was due to --> resulted from, or arose from, or came from

Three bodies of theoretical and empirical work are especially relevant to --> Three bodies of theoretical and empirical work relate to

Asset-reduction programs are illustrative of --> Asset-reduction programs illustrate

the situations in which they have been effective --> where they produced results

such an ethical position is compatible with --> such an ethical position meshes with

Both A and B would be better off if --> Both A and B would fare better if

Sharp discontinuities among classes are clear in --> Classes differ sharply in

which are important dimensions of environmental resource variation --> that distinguish variations in environmental resources

These latter studies have each examined variables whose prima facie relationships to X is highly suspect. Yet relationships were found --> These latter studies found some highly suspect relationships.

The linkages are not rational, but are subject to the --> The linkages lack rationality, but reflect the

groupings that are stable over a period long enough --> groupings that remain stable long enough

The second question is more difficult in that --> The second question poses more challenge because

The basis of cohesion is twofold. --> Cohesion has two bases.

because applications of this research are likely --> because organization theorists will probably apply this research, or because this research can apply to

Other design parameters are not as easily subject --> Managers have difficulty altering the parameters associated with

than those organizations that are not effective --> than ineffective organizations

in a manner that was most appropriate for the problems --> in an appropriate manner, or appropriately

Eliminate phrases of the form: To Be + noun.

organizational performance would be a consequence of --> organizational performance would depend upon

It is a system that is continuously evolving --> It evolves continuously

was the result of --> arose from, or came from

If such is the case, --> If so,

Much of the problem is a confusion of --> The problem arises largely from confusion of

One focus of this research has been the identification of --> This research has identified

Fit is the essence of design. --> Fit undergirds design.

It is an exhaustive system for classifying organizations --> It encompasses all organizations

Such a classification system will be an essential building block in population-ecology models --> Population ecology requires such a classification system

The economic output of each establishment is the principal characteristic by which it is classified --> Economists classify each establishment principally by its economic output

The first question is the easier to answer as it only requires examining --> Answering the first question only requires examining

The criteria used in salary decisions are issues of great importance, both for organizations and individuals --> Salary decisions affect both organizations and individuals

The purpose of this article is to develop --> This article develops (An infinitive acts as a noun.)

if advances in our understanding of theory are to occur --> before we can build better theories

who is likely to remain with --> who will likely remain with

Its basic proposition is that organizational performance --> It proposes that organizational performance (A nominative clause acts as a noun.)

The consequence is that one should expect --> One should consequently expect

These conditions are that a concept of X --> A concept of X should

The problem, however, was that such rational processes --> Rational processes, however,

Eliminate lead-in phrases.

Many of these are merely special cases of the To Be verbs.

it is this conception of environment which makes --> this conception of environment makes

It is useful to distinguish from the start three primary forms of interdependence --> Interdependence has three primary forms. (For what purpose is it useful?)

It is only in the open systems perspective that the organization environment is given (passive verb) a central role --> Only the open-systems perspective assigns central roles to organizations' environments

it is important that the individual know the --> an individual should know the

On other hand, it Is noteable that there are no relations between X and Y --> X and Y do not correlate.

It should be in an organization's interest to make --> An organization should make

It should be noted that this isomorphism is not a necessary condition. --> This isomorphism is unnecessary.

It will be shown in the next section that --> The next section shows that

It is reasonable to expect that how decision makers frame or formulate problems will influence --> How decision makers formulate problems should influence

It is argued here that the nature of attribution will influence --> attribution influences

It is suggested that the number and size distribution influence --> The number and size distribution of firms influence

From this analysis, it is suggested that many published studies may be misleading in their conclusions. --> This analysis suggests that many studies have drawn misleading conclusions.

it appears that concepts of fit are drawn from --> concepts of fit arise from

It seems to me that any effort --> Any effort

Even if this is broadly true, we must note that X --> X

from the environment. This is because --> from environments because

This should not be surprising given that top managers --> Top managers (Who was it that claimed it was surprising?)

there is little variation within subunits in these respects --> subunits vary little in these respects because

There are, however, fundamental limitations to such approaches --> The limitations of such approaches include

There are two crucial questions raised by the addition of new structures to organizations. --> New organizational structures raise two central questions:

Eliminate Phrases of the form: Article + Noun + Of.

You should be especially alert when the noun is a verb stem plus ation. To find these, watch for the word of.

The implication of this is that --> This implies that

One focus of this research has been the identification of --> This research has identified

The construction of these explanations involves --> People construct these explanations by

Common to all three literatures is a depiction of --> All three literatures depict

The purpose of this paper is to provide --> This paper provides

performance is not solely a function of --> performance does not depend solely on

are themselves the results of --> result from

as representations of --> to represent

the attributions of decision makers --> decision makers' attributions

provides an illustration of --> illustrates

with conceptualization of environments --> with how studies conceptualized

the nature of attribution --> attributions

Because the definition of entrepreneurship denotes the creation of some combination that did not previously exist (passive verb) --> Because entrepreneurs create new combinations

through the establishment of some order or structure --> through order

In the case of performance downturns --> In performance downturns

the rationale for the use of variables --> the rationale for using variables

the occurrence of unsuccessful --> unsuccessful

the properties of the environment of particular organizations --> organizations' environments

the prevention of anticipated --> preventing anticipated

those classes of actions --> the actions

A large body of empirical research --> Much empirical research

a large number of --> many

as the most important determinants of --> determine

the main determinant of --> as determining

the importance of decision making --> decision making

the complexities of --> the complex

offers a synthesis of --> synthesizes

to sketch a profile of --> to profile

has led to exclusion of --> has excluded