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Basic Scientific Writing in English Lecture 8. Professor Ralph Kirby Faculty of Life Sciences Extension 7323 Room B322. Subject verb agreement and collective nouns. The problem is that in English, there needs to be agreement between the noun count and the verb.

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basic scientific writing in english lecture 8

Basic Scientific Writing in EnglishLecture 8

Professor Ralph Kirby

Faculty of Life Sciences

Extension 7323

Room B322

the problem is that in english there needs to be agreement between the noun count and the verb
The problem is that in English, there needs to be agreement between the noun count and the verb
  • This is not complex for simple nouns
  • It is more complex for collective nouns
  • Is also more complex for lists
collective nouns
Collective Nouns
  • Most nouns in English take a singular or plural form
    • Man Men
    • Hand Hands
  • However, collective nouns take only the singular (Usually!)
    • Data (This does have a singular – datum)
    • However, the meaning and use of the word has changed
      • Datum and data. Singular and plural of information points
      • Data. Collective nouns for group of results.
      • Which is correct
    • Which is correct
      • The data was collected
      • The data were corrected
      • Both are but I prefer the former because of the change in meaning
      • If you want to avoid the problem, use the word results
collective nouns1
Collective Nouns
  • Which is correct
    • A herd of 35 animals was examined
    • A herd of 35 animals were examined
  • Avoid problem
    • Thirty five animals were examined
  • Correct contextual use
    • A pair of animals was housed in a cage
    • A pair of animals were studied
    • The number of persons studied was 35
    • A number of persons were studied
multiple subjects
Multiple subjects
  • Neither the cats nor the dog was in the cage
    • Correct but reads poorly
  • Neither the dog nor the cats were in the cage
    • Correct and reads well
  • Neither the cats nor the dog were in the cage
    • Wrong because with neither/nor the verb should take the number of the closest noun
conventions in papers when numbers should be given as numerals
Conventions in papersWhen numbers should be given as numerals
  • All numbers above 10
    • 35 animals
  • All numbers preceding a unit of measure
    • 10 cm
  • Decimals, fractions including a whole number
    • 7.38 mm, 4 ½ hours
  • Statistical or mathematical functions
    • 3.5 times, multiplied by 5, 2nd quartile
  • Numbers that are exact quantities
    • IQ of 125, $25
  • Numbers below ten group with numbers above ten
    • 4 of 16 individuals
  • Numbers that indicate part of a series
    • Figure 6, Chapter 3
conventions in papers when numbers should be written in full
Conventions in papers When numbers should be written in full
  • Numbers that are not precise measurements
      • A three-way interaction, repeated four times
  • Numbers below ten groups with other numbers below ten
      • Four out of six experiments
  • Any number that begins a sentence
      • Five patients died
      • Reword to avoid if possible
      • If used a lot in a paragraph or section, write all out.
  • Fractions without a whole number
      • Reduced by half
  • Zero and one in most places when not with another number
      • And one plate was positive
      • The measurement remained close to zero
acronyms are not abbreviations
Acronyms are not abbreviations
  • Acronyms are not abbreviations
  • They are pronounced as a word
    • Enzyme Linked ImmunoadSorbant Assay
      • ELISA
    • RAdio Detection And Ranging
      • RADAR
    • National Space and Aeronautical Administration
      • NASA
slide11
Abbreviations are only used in text usually and if used in conversation, they are spelt out or said in full
  • DNA
    • Spelt out
  • RNA
    • Spelt out
  • PhD or Ph.D
    • Spelt out
    • I prefer Ph.D
  • MSc or M.Sc or MS
    • Spelt out
    • I prefer M.Sc
  • Avg.
    • Said in full
  • sp. gr.
    • Said in Full
abbreviations in the abstract
Abbreviations in the abstract
  • You should avoid the use of abbreviations or acronyms in the abstract, if at all possible, except for generally accepted ones like DNA or ELISA
  • If you need to use an abbreviation in the abstract, write it in full the first time with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards. Then use the abbreviation
    • Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Only do this in the abstract if you use the term more than twice and it is long
    • The aim is to save words because there is a word limit in the abstract
abbreviations in the main text
Abbreviations in the main text
  • Here the function is to increase readability and to avoid repeating the same long phase again and again.
  • Choose what you intend to abbreviate carefully based on this
  • Place the abbreviation in brackets after the first mention of the term to be shortened
  • After that, always use the abbreviation
  • Be careful of what the abbreviation sounds or looks like
      • Functional User Capacity (FUC)
      • Sensor Navigation Orthogonal Tracer (SNOT)
abbreviations and words in foreign languages
Abbreviations and words in “foreign” languages
  • Historically in English, it was considered intellectual that you used Latin, Greek and French words and phrases for specific purposes.
  • Some of these words have been assimilated directly into English
  • Some are still be assimilated
  • Some are not assimilated at all
  • Some are just obscure
foreign words and abbreviations assimilated into english
Foreign words and abbreviations assimilated into English
  • I prefer the first plural in all cases. All no italics except as below
  • Analysis
    • Plural Analyses
  • Formula
    • Plural: formulae or formulas
  • Memorandum
    • Plural: memoranda or memorandums
  • Serum
    • Plural: sera or serums
  • Index
    • Plural: indices or Indexes
  • Appendix
    • Plural: appendices or appendixes
  • eg
    • No plural. From Latin. No italics in US journals
  • ie
    • No plural. From Latin. No italics in US journals
  • a priori
    • No plural. Latin. No italics in US journals
foreign words and abbreviations becoming assimilated into english
Foreign words and abbreviations becoming assimilated into English
  • sine qua non
  • coup de grace
  • per se
  • coup d’etat
    • Plural coups d’etat
  • i.e.
    • id est: that is
  • cf.
    • confer: compare
  • e.g.
    • exempli gratia: for example
  • et al.
    • et alii: and others
    • Note that there is no full stop after et. It is not abbreviated
  • Bacillus
    • Plural bacillae. No italics as an accepted scientific term
  • Mitochondrion
    • Plural mitochondria. No italics as an accepted scientific term
obscure abbreviations
Obscure Abbreviations
  • op. cit.
    • in the work cited
  • loc. cit.
    • in the place cited
  • ibid.
    • in the same work
  • viz.
    • namely
  • circa
    • about
  • etc.
    • and so forth
  • 1st three are still used a great deal in footnotes in legal journals to shorten the quotation of cases
  • viz. and circa should never be used
  • etc. should really not be used because it does not add anything to what you say. Is commonly not italicised, but avoid.
other rules
Other rules
  • Be consistent
  • See what the journal normally uses and stick to it
  • Do use approved abbreviations, but check the journals instructions to authors
  • Do not overuse abbreviations, remember why you are using them
  • Do not use an abbreviation in the title except something like DNA or ELISA
  • Try not to begin a sentence with an abbreviation if at all possible
  • Remember to give a generic name in full first, then only abbreviated the genus
    • Escherichia coli then E. coli not E. c.
plural of abbreviations
Plural of abbreviations
  • Page and species have special plural forms
    • Species
      • sp. – singular spp. - plural
    • Page
      • p. – singular pp. - plural
  • An apostrophe indicates the possessive, be careful when using with abbreviations
    • “the DNAs were . . .” not “the DNA’s were . . .”
    • except for “the DNA’s properties . . .”
  • Units of measure
    • Do not pluralize
      • 1 ml; 100 ml; 1 l; 100 l.
final comments
Final Comments
  • Avoid abbreviations for subdivisions of countries
    • Calif. or CA; Mich. or MI; Lond.; H. K.
    • Many people outside the country don’t know them
  • For countries except for the United States of America and the United Kingdom, do not abbreviated (exception, USSR, which does not exist anymore). Not even the European Union (E.U.)
    • United States of America
      • U.S.A. or USA. or U.S. or US
      • I prefer 1st but be consistent
    • United Kingdom
      • U.K. or UK
      • I prefer 1st but be consistent
      • This is the correct term for the whole area in Europe controlled from Parliament in London
      • Do not use England, Britain Great Britain, British Isles. These have specific and somewhat obscure meanings
      • If you mean Scotland or Wales, be specific and be careful not to call it England
      • Ireland is a place, not a country. It is made up of Eire or the Republic of Ireland (Use the former) and Northern Ireland or Ulster (Use the former)
placing of some latin words
Placing of some Latin words
  • in vivo (in a living system)
    • in vivo assay
    • assay in vivo More correct
  • in vitro (in a test tube or artificial system)
    • in vitro experiment
    • experiment in vitro More correct
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