Science

The Oxford Comma

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One of the most common grammar questions in the English language is that of the Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma. We use this grammatical device before the words ‘and’, or ‘or’ in a list of three or more items. For example, a sentence using the Oxford comma may go, “The boy is tall, […]

Science

However

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It has become fashionable to use the word “however” in scientific articles. Are writers using it correctly? The answer is that authors occasionally use the word correctly, although when they do, it is often by accident. There are several better, more precise words that authors could be using, but we’ll get to those a little […]

Science

Less or Fewer?

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Which of these two sentences is correct? His troubles are less than mine His troubles are fewer than mine The answer is, it depends on whom you ask. According to Strunk and White, “less” refers to the quantity and “fewer” refers to number. “His troubles are less than mine” mines “His troubles are not so […]

Science

Compared to What?

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So, these two economists are sitting in a bar. The first asks the second “How’s your wife?” The second replies “Compared to what?” I think of this joke often when I encounter the word “compared” in articles I edit. Some writers use the preposition “to,” and some use “with” after the word “compared.” Which is […]

Science

Use Active Voice

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Active voice is preferred by me. But what if I wrote, “I prefer active voice”? That is a stronger, more straightforward way of expressing the same thought. In active voice, the subject does the acting. In the sentence “I prefer active voice”, “I” am the subject. In passive voice, the subject is acted upon. In […]

Science

How to Use the Word “Respectively” in a Scientific Paper

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The word “respectively” appears often in the medical and scientific papers that I edit. Unfortunately, authors often misuse the word. According to the online edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “Respectively” has two definitions: 1: in particular : separately could not recognize the solutions as salty or sour, respectively 2: in the order given  Mary and Anne were 12 and 16 years […]