Suppose you improved an old method with a novel technique. Is it OK to say that it (your technique) is your trump card in paper? If not, what is your suggestion?

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    Can you give some context? ie what is the sentence you intend to use trump card in? – spiceyokooko Dec 24 '12 at 13:28
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    I think it's likely not to be appropriate, because trump card has a specific "winner-takes-all" connotation. It doesn't simply mean "better". It's also rather informal. But there is not enough context here to say one way or the other (the existing answer notwithstanding). – Andrew Leach Dec 24 '12 at 14:00
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    It's hard to tell without context, but I feel like you are using the term incorrectly. Trump card is not an improvement, but something that (tries) to put you ahead of another, potentially in a competing environment. – Grumpy Dec 24 '12 at 14:06
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    My point would be to not use any catch-phrases/ cliches/ metaphors at all in what you call a "scientific paper" -- not at all. Keep it straight talk, plain English. – Kris Dec 24 '12 at 14:41
  • Thanks to all, I was convinced that it is not so appropriate for my paper. – A.Gh Dec 24 '12 at 14:58

The metaphorical use of 'trump card' means that you used a sneaky technique to overcome an obstacle (and win against a stronger opponent). If you are improving an old technique, then your use of the metaphor would come across as very arrogant, that you were in competition with the authors of the prior technique and that you beat them. Not only would the prior authors resent such an implication, other readers would sense this arrogance and look on unfavorably to your intentions.

If you need a metaphor that shows that you are improving on a prior result (by extending it), then do not use 'trump card'.

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    I'm having a hard time coming up with appropriate metaphors for improvement. 'Standing on the shoulders of giants' is a classic but overwrought and also arrogant for the context (you better be inventing Newtonian mechanics to warrant that usage). For a technical paper you don't need metaphors anyway, just say 'improvement'. – Mitch Dec 24 '12 at 14:22

I guess you can use the term in science papers.

If you have improved an old method with a novel technique and if that gives you an edge over others, then it sure is your trump card. Trump card means any resource that can be used at an opportune moment.

Source: TheFreeDictionary

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