Scientific Writer Dictionary

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Africa: definitions of regions. This can be very confusing!

The term East Africa or Eastern Africa is also the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the United Nations Statistics Division scheme of geographic regions, 20 territories constitute Eastern Africa (see table below).

Other region definitions:

  • East Africa is often (especially in the English language) used to specifically refer to the area now comprising the three countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
  • Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi – in Central East Africa, are also included in the African Great Lakes region and are members of the East African Community (EAC). Note: Burundi and Rwanda are sometimes also considered to be part of Central Africa.
  • Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia– collectively known as the Horn of Africa.
  • The Greater Horn of Africa, as defined by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), comprises eight countries (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda). (source: https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/en/home/countries/horn-africa.html)
  • Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles – small island nations in the Indian Ocean.
  • Réunion and Mayotte – French overseas territories - also in the Indian Ocean.
  • Mozambique and Madagascar – often considered part of Southern Africa, on the eastern side of the sub-continent. Madagascar has close cultural ties to Southeast Asia and the islands of the Indian Ocean.
  • Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe – often also included in Southern Africa, and formerly of the Central African Federation.
  • Countries of SSA. The designation sub-Saharan Africa is commonly used to indicate all of Africa except northern Africa, with Sudan included in sub-Saharan Africa (http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm)

 

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Africa)

 

United Nations Statistics DivisionGeographical region and composition of each region in Africa (source: http://unstats.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm)

Eastern (or sometimes East) Africa

Central Africa

Northern (or North) Africa

Burundi

Angola

Algeria

Comoros

Cameroon

Egypt

Djibouti

Central African Republic

Libya

Eritrea

Chad

Morocco

Ethiopia

Congo

Sudan

Kenya

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tunisia

Madagascar

Equatorial Guinea

Western Sahara

Malawi

Gabon

 

Mauritius

Sao Tome and Principe

Southern Africa

Mayotte

 

Botswana

Mozambique

Western (or West) Africa

Lesotho

Réunion

Benin

Namibia

Rwanda

Burkina Faso

South Africa

Seychelles

Cabo Verde

Swaziland

Somalia

Cote d'Ivoire

 

South Sudan

Gambia

 

Uganda

Ghana

 

Tanzania

Guinea

 

Zambia

Guinea-Bissau

 

Zimbabwe

Liberia

 

 

Mali

 

 

Mauritania

 

 

Niger

 

 

Nigeria

 

 

Saint Helena

 

 

Senegal

 

 

Sierra Leone

 

 

Togo

 

 

 

Alumna, alumnae, alumni, alumnus.Alumni is a plural noun referring either to a group male graduates or to a group of both male and female graduates. The singular alumnus refers to one male graduate, alumna refers to one female graduate, and the plural alumnae refers to a group of female graduates. (source: http://grammarist.com/usage/alumna-alumnae-alumni-alumnus/)

 

East or eastern; north or northern?

(source http://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/east-or-eastern-north-or-northern)

North, south, east, west

We usually use north, south, east, west, not northern, southern, eastern and western, to refer to specific places or to direction of movement. We can use north, south, east and west as adjectives or adverbs and occasionally as nouns:

  • More and more people are buying second homes on the south coast of Ireland. (adjective)
  • After Bangkok, we drove north for about six hours without stopping. (adverb)
  • Strong Atlantic winds are forecast in the west of Portugal. (noun)

We normally use capital letters in place names with north, south, east and west:

  • The conference is taking place in North
  • Bargain flights to South America from London Gatwick from £350.

Northern, southern, eastern and western: larger areas.

We commonly use northern, southern, eastern and western (without capital letters) to refer to larger areas or territory. We can only use them as adjectives:

  • The northern parts of India have suffered severe flooding.
  • Houses are more expensive in most western parts of the country.
  • Some names of specific places have capital letters for northern, southern, eastern and western:
  • We are holidaying in Northern Ireland next year. (name of a region)
  • Perth is the capital of Western (name of a state)
  • San Diego is my favourite place in southern (a part or region of a state but not the name of a state)

 

Hyphens

The fact is, there’s really no set of hyphen rules on which every person can agree. The following is the most common rule of hyphenation, but nearly all authorities would agree on it.

Before a noun: A hyphen should be used in order to create an adjective if the phrase comes before the noun in a sentence. However, the hyphen should not be used if the phrase follows the noun in the sentence.

  • A well-respected CEO gets a hyphen, whereas a CEO who is well respected does not.
  • A widely-known author is a hyphenated author, but an author who is widely known gets no hyphen at all.

(source: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/hyphen-rules.html#GdkmQZBJo78g0Jmb.99)

 

East Coast fever (abbr. ECF). NotEast Coast Fever’ or ‘east coast fever’

 

International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology. Not ‘Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology.’ Abbr. icipe. Note lowercase italics. It is not ‘icipe’ or ‘Icipe’ or ‘ICIPE’. When used at the start of a sentence it is still lowercase icipe not Icipe. Exceptions may occur in some legal documents or official letters, e.g. ICIPE.

 

Master’s Degree. Not Masters Degree. It can be lowercase when used inside a sentence. Here’s a useful lesson from Wikipedia on how to spell and abbreviate Master’s Degree: “Harvard University and the University of Chicago for instance, use A.M. and S.M. for their master’s degrees and MIT uses S.M. for its master of science degrees. Master of Science is often abbreviated MS or M.S. in the United States, and MSc or M.Sc. in Commonwealth nations and Europe.” —Wikipedia. At icipe you should use MSc or M.Sc. - and MS or M.S. when referring to US degrees.

 

Modelled, modeling. In American English, the verb model becomes modeled and modeling. Outside North America, the preferred participles are modeled and modelling, with two l's. At icipe we generally use British English, so you should use modeled and modeling, unless you are writing for American media or an American journal.

 

Mosquitos or mosquitoes? Either is acceptable. Just be consistent with its use.

 

PhD, Ph.D., Dr.

In English, PhD can be written with or without periods; both are correct. The trend today is to drop periods with abbreviations of academic degrees. Doctor is usually written as "Dr" in most of the Commonwealth (including UK and Kenya), and it is usually written as "Dr." in North America. Whatever you use, be consistent.

When you are addressing a person with a doctoral degree, it is considered more polite to use the title Dr or the academic abbreviation PhD with the person’s name, instead of the simple courtesy titles Mr. or Ms.

Note: Do not use both the title and the degree. If the degree is listed after the name, the title is not used before the name, i.e. either of these is correct:

  • Clive Smith, PhD

OR

  • Dr Clive Smith

When addressing several people, each of whom holds a doctoral title, one may use the plural abbreviation "Drs" (or "Drs."in American English) for example, instead of Dr Vinod and Dr Harsh: Drs Vinod and Harsh. (source: http://www.btb.termiumplus.gc.ca/tpv2guides/guides/wrtps/index-fra.html?lang=fra&lettr=indx_catlog_p&page=9e-8ycfVZx-4.html; https://www.englishforums.com/English/DrDr/pkjwb/post.htm)

 

sub-Saharan Africa is correct inside a sentence, but it should be capitalized at the start of a sentence, i.e. Sub-Saharan Africa. It is abbreviated SSA.

 

Honey Bee or HoneyBee? Bed Bug or Bedbug? House Fly or Housefly?

(Source: Richard Levine, http://entomologytoday.org/2014/05/06/is-it-honey-bee-or-honeybee-bed-bug-or-bedbug-house-fly-or-housefly/)

Writing insect names using English can be difficult. Some species have different names depending on where you are, or with whom you are speaking (think “ladybug” or “ladybird” or “lady beetle”). More often than not, an insect may not even have an official common name because out of the million or so insects that have been discovered and described, only a couple of thousand have been designated with common names by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).

To make matters worse, even the ones that DO have official common names — ones that we see nearly every day — may have different spellings depending on whether they appear in scientific publications or other print media, such as newspapers or magazines.

For example, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “honeybee” and “housefly” and “bedbug” are spelled as one word. However, according to the ESA Common Names of Insects Database, they are spelled as two words — “honey bee” and “house fly” and “bed bug.”

Newspapers such as the New York Times or the Washington Post tend to use the dictionary spellings, while scientific journals such as the Journal of Medical Entomology or Annals of the Entomological Society of America will of course use the spellings that are officially sanctioned by the entomological community as they appear in the ESA database.

The reason for the discrepancy is that entomologists use two words if a common name accurately describes the order to which a particular insect belongs. For example, all true flies belong to the order Diptera, so true fly names will be spelled using two words by entomologists — house fly, horse fly, pigeon fly, or stable fly, for example. However, despite their names, dragonflies and butterflies are NOT true flies — their orders are Odonata and Lepidoptera, respectively — so they are spelled as one word. The same goes for “bed bug” or “stink bug,” both of which are true bugs in the order Hemiptera, which is why they are spelled as two words in the entomological community. However, insects that are not in the order Hemiptera, like billbugs or sowbugs, are spelled as one word. Likewise, honey bees and bumble bees are true bees in the order Hymenoptera, so entomologists spell them as two words, even though the dictionaries and newspapers spell them as one.

In his book Anatomy of the Honey Bee (1956), Robert E. Snodgrass wrote:

“Regardless of dictionaries, we have in entomology a rule for insect common names that can be followed. It says: If the insect is what the name implies, write the two words separately; otherwise run them together. Thus we have such names as house fly, blow fly, and robber fly contrasted with dragonfly, caddicefly, and butterfly, because the latter are not flies, just as an aphislion is not a lion and a silverfish is not a fish. The honey bee is an insect and is preeminently a bee; “honeybee” is equivalent to “Johnsmith.” ”

So there you have it. If you’re ever in doubt, check the ESA Common Names of Insects Database. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, find another reputable source and check on the insect’s order, and remember this short rhyme: “If true, then two.”

 

Scientific names (source: http://blog.vancouvereditor.com/2011/03/science-writing-and-editing-scientific.html)

The Latin scientific name of a species, be it plant, animal, bacterium, fungus, etc., is a two-part name consisting of the genus name first (by the way: one genus, two genera) and the species name second. For example, the domestic cat is known as Felis catus. Although the genus name can be used on its own (there are several other species in genus Felis, for instance the wildcat, Felis silvestris), the species name never appears on its own.

The basic rule for writing a scientific name

  1. Use both genus and species name: Felis catus.
  2. Italicize the whole name.
  3. Capitalize only the genus name. (In the past you would capitalize the species designation if it was derived from a proper name, e.g., Megalonyx Jeffersonii, but now the species designation is always lowercased: Megalonyx jeffersonii.)

Rules for abbreviating the genus name

  1. After the first use, the genus name can be abbreviated to just its initial: catus.
  1. When a section of the text might be displayed on its own, you might want to spell out the name in full the first time it appears there. For instance, some academic journals require that you write out the genus in full the first time it is used in the abstract, and in all tables and table captions.
  2. When you introduce the name of another species in the same genus, you can use the abbreviated genus name for the new species (ref. 1): The domestic cat is species Felis catus, e.g. Both F. catus and its wild relative, F. silvestris ……
  3. If you are discussing two species that belong to different genera that nevertheless start with the same letter, say, Leopardus pardalis, the ocelot, and the Canada lynx, Lynx canadensis, it is better not to abbreviate their genus names.
  4. Abbreviations of more than one letter: I’ve seen a few instances of two-letter abbreviations of genus names, for instance Au. Afarensis and Ar. Ramidus for Australopithecus afarensis and Ardipithecus ramidus, and I’ve seen discussion of two- or three-letter genus abbreviations for some taxonomic groups. Butcher’s Copy-editing (ref. 2) says they are to be avoided, but they’re permissible to avoid ambiguity (ref. 3). I recommend with your target publication to see whether they allow this style.
  5. Sometimes the full genus name isn’t spelled out on first use. Some organisms, such as the famous study organisms E. coli and C. elegans, are so well known that it’s common in informal discussion to just use the abbreviated version of the name.

Names of taxonomic levels above the genus level

The names of higher taxonomic levels (family, order, class, phylum or division, and kingdom) should be capitalized but not italicized (see Chicago 8.125 and Butcher’s 13.5.1). Common names derived from taxon names, for instance “felines” for members of the family Felidae, are not capitalized. A common name that is derived from a genus name, such as gorilla, is not capitalized either (see Chicago 8.126).

Names of taxonomic levels below the species level

Below the level of species there are subspecies and varieties.

  1. The subspecies name is italicized.
  2. In zoology, the subspecies is not indicated by any label; it just follows the species name: the European Wildcat isFelis silvestris silvestris. If the subspecies name is the same as the species name, it can be abbreviated: Felis s. silvestris or s. silvestris
  3. In botany, the subspecies is indicated by “subsp.” or “ssp.” (Butcher’s recommends subsp. (ref. 4)): Juncus effusessolutus. The “subsp.” label is not italicized.
  4. The name of a variety is italicized, but the “var.” label is not: The insecticide BTK is produced by Bacillus thuringiensiskurstaki.

Unknown or unspecified species

When referring to an unidentified species, use the abbreviation “sp.”: The meadow contained several sedge plants (Carex sp.). The plural form is “spp.”: The forest floor contained several species of pixie cup lichen (Cladonia spp.). The “sp.” and “spp.” labels are not italicized.

The species author and the sp. nov. tag for introducing new species in the literature

When a species is being formally introduced in a scientific paper the name of the author (the person who first described the species in academic literature) is usually given.

  1. The author name is not italicized: The straightleaf rush is Juncus orthophyllus
  2. The name may be abbreviated. Carolus Linnaeus, a biologist who is such a hero his name was Latinized, gets the abbreviation “L.”: The European meadow rush is Juncus inflexus
  3. If the author name is in parentheses, then that indicates that the species was originally assigned to a different genus.
  4. The abbreviation “sp. nov.” indicates that a species is being introduced in the literature for the first time. Do not italicize “sp. nov.”: “Pyrococcus furiosus nov. represents a novel genus of marine heterotrophic archaebacteria growing optimally at 100°C.

Notes

References

  • Butcher’s Copy-editing4th Edition, p. 328
  • Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake, and Maureen Leach, Butcher’s Copy-editing, 4th Edition. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780521847131
  • Butcher’s Copy-editing4th Edition, p. 328
  • Butcher’s Copy-editing4th Edition, p. 329

 

spp.and sp. What do the spp. and sp. designations refer to? The "sp." is an abbreviation for species. It is used when the actual species name cannot or need not or is not specified. The plural form of this abbreviation is "spp." and indicates "several species. Example: Chrysoperla sp. (when referring to a single species) and Chrysoperla spp. (when referring to several species within the genus). NOTE 1: The sp. and spp. designations are not italicized or underlined! NOTE 2: This abbreviation system applies to animals including insects.

(source: http://hortsciences.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials_intros/beneficials-F_scientific_names.htm)

 

SI units and symbols: writing guide (source: http://www.poynton.com/notes/units/)

In a table, an illustration or a technical text, use the scientific style for measurements and units. Write the number in figures, followed by a nonbreaking space. Then write the prefix symbol and the unit symbol with appropriate capitalization and no spaces: 4 MHz, 2.2 μF, 75 Ω. Separate the last digit from the unit with a nonbreaking space; this will prevent clumsy line breaks.

 

SI prefix symbols are capitalized for multipliers 106and larger, and lower case for multipliers 103 and smaller. E.g. mm (millimetre), MHz (mega Hertz)

A unit symbol is written in lower case, except that its initial letter is capitalized if the unit is named after a person. These are symbols, not abbreviations or contractions: Do not use periods or other punctuation. To avoid confusion with math symbols ("variables"), do not italicize unit symbols.

Use appropriate capitalization. The symbol k for kilo - a multiplier of 1000 - combines with hertz as kHz; the symbol for decibel is written dB. A popular computer in 1987 had a nameplate stating its memory capacity as 1 mb. In fact it had a megabyte of memory, properly written as 1 MB, not a millibit!

When you write a negative sign, use a nonbreaking hyphen instead of a regular hyphen. This prevents the sign from being left stranded at the end of the line:

-
400 V power results from using a standard hyphen,
-400 V power results from a nonbreaking hyphen. The former is, at the very least, confusing to your reader. At its worst, it could compromise personal safety!

 

The International System of Units (SI) is a decimal-based system that includes units for physical quantities. There are seven base units in SI:

 

Table 1

Quantity

Unit name

Symbol

length

metre

m

mass

kilogram

kg

time

second

s

electric current

ampere

A

thermodynamic temperature

kelvin

K

amount of substance

mole

mol

luminous intensity

candela

cd

 

In addition, a number of derived units are used. Like the kelvin and the ampere, almost all of them are named after scientists associated with a scientific discovery. Thus, when the symbol is used, its initial letter is capitalized. When written in full, however, the unit name is in lower case, e.g. H for henry and F for farad.

 

The International System of Units, Exception:Celsius takes an initial capital whether written in full or as a symbol.

 

The table below gives a complete list of derived units:

Table 2

Name

Symbol

Quantity

coulomb

C

quantity of electricity, electric charge

degree Celsius

°C

Celsius temperature *

farad

F

capacitance

gray

Gy

absorbed dose of ionizing radiation

henry

H

inductance

hertz

Hz

frequency

joule

J

energy, work, quantity of heat

lumen

lm

luminous flux

lux

lx

illuminance

newton

N

force

ohm

?

electric resistance

pascal

Pa

pressure, stress

radian

rad

plane angle

siemens

S

electric conductance

sievert

Sv

dose equivalent of ionizing radiation

steradian

sr

solid angle

tesla

T

magnetic flux density

volt

V

electric potential, potential difference, electromotive force

watt

W

power, radiant flux

weber

Wb

magnetic flux

* The Celsius temperature scale (previously called Centigrade, but renamed in 1948 to avoid confusion with "centigrad," associated with the centesimal system of angular measurement), is the commonly used scale, except for certain scientific and technological purposes where the thermodynamic temperature scale is preferred. Note the use of upper-case C for Celsius.

 

Multiples and submultiples of base units and derived units are expressed by adding one of the prefixes from the following table directly to the unit name:

 

Table 3

Factor

Prefix

Symbol

Factor

Prefix

Symbol

1024

yotta

Y

10-1

deci

d

1021

zetta

Z

10-2

centi

c

1018

exa

E

10-3

milli

m

1015

peta

P

10-6

micro

µ

1012

tera

T

10-9

nano

n

109

giga

G

10-12

pico

p

106

mega

M

10-15

femto

f

103

kilo

k

10-18

atto

a

102

hecto

h

10-21

zepto

z

101

deca

da

10-24

yocto

y

 

The prefix and unit name are always spelled as one word:

  • Centimeter
  • Decagram
  • Hectoliter
  • kilopascal

When symbols are used, the prefix symbol and unit symbol are run together:

  • 5 cm
  • 4 dag
  • 7 hL
  • 13 kPa

Leave a full space between the quantity and the symbol:

  • 45 kg (not 45kg
  • 32 °C (not 32°C)

For the sake of clarity, a hyphen may be inserted between a numeral and a symbol used adjectivally (see also 2.10 Numerals and units of measurement):

  • 35-mm film
  • 60-W bulb
  • Unit symbols and prefixes should always be in lower case, even when the rest of the text is in upper case:
  • SIBERIA DRIFTS 5 cm CLOSER TO ALASKA

 

The International System of Units, Exceptions. The symbol L for litre (to distinguish it from the numeral 1) and, as mentioned above, those symbols derived from the names of scientists.

 

SI usage prescribes that both numeral and unit name be written in full or that both be abbreviated:

  • two metres or 2 m

Current usage, however, accepts the use of numerals with spelled-out unit names to facilitate comprehension:

  • He ran the 100 metres in 10 seconds.

In scientific and technical writing, the preferred form is numerals with unit symbols:

  • The specific latent heat of fusion of sulphur is 38.1 K/kg.

When no specific figure is stated, write the unit name in full:

  • The means of transportation chosen depends on how many kilometres an employee has to travel to work.

Area and volume in the metric system are expressed by means of superscript numerals:

  • 5 cm3
  • 20 m2

Do not use abbreviations such as cc or cu. Cm for cubic centimeter (cm3), kilo for kilogram (kg), amp for ampere (A) or kph for kilometres per hour (km/h).

Because of their practical importance, the following additional units are approved for use with SI, although they do not, strictly speaking, form part of it:

 

Table 4

Quantity

Unit name

Symbol

time

minute

min

hour

h

day

d

year

a

plane angle

degree

°

minute

second

’’

revolution

r

area

hectare

ha

volume

litre

L

mass

metric ton, tonne

t

linear density

tex

tex

Note that there is no standard symbol for week or month. These units should therefore always be spelled out in technical writing.

When a unit symbol is combined with a symbol for time, or with a derived unit implying a division, an oblique (/) separates the two:

  • 80 km/h
    • not 80 kmh or 80 kph
  • 1800 r/min
    • not 1800 rpm
  • 50 A/m
    • not 50 Am
  • 200 J/kg
    • not 200 Jkg

 

 

Ongoing, which is an adjective, means something that is still happening or being done. It is quite formal:

'The ongoing investigation into the ministry's failures shows no signs of being completed.’

'The ongoing health crisis shows no signs of being resolved.'

It is not written ‘on going’ or ‘on-going’

 

sensu stricto should be written in italics

 

Which versus That. “That” introduces essential information, but phrases that begin with “which” give additional, nonessential information and are set off by commas.

  • The fetal sonograms that were obtained at 24 weeks gestation depicted all of the abnormalities.
  • The fetal sonograms, which were obtained at 24 weeks gestation, were not available for interpretation.

In the first sentence, “that were obtained at 24 weeks gestation” is essential information: It makes clear which sonograms, as opposed to others obtained at another time, depicted the abnormalities. In the second sentence, only one set of sonograms was obtained; that they were obtained at 24 weeks is extra information. The emphasis in the second sentence is that the sonograms were not available for interpretation. “Which were obtained at 24 weeks gestation” is additional information and is thus set off by commas.

(source http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/pdf/10.1148/radiology.218.1.r01ja658)

 

Years old or year-old? https://grammarpartyblog.com/2013/04/26/years-old-hyphen-or-no-hyphen/

How to hyphenate the phrases years old and year old:

Let’s take a look at two sentences:

  • His son is four years old.
  • He has a four year old boy.

In the first sentence, you would not use hyphens. In the second sentence, you would, making it four-year-old boy. This is because the phrase four year old is modifying the noun boy.

A good clue to determine whether you should hyphenate the year old phrase is to see if a noun comes after it. If there is a noun, hyphenate:

  • six-year-old toy
  • fifty-year-old whiskey
  • eight-year-old cat

If the sentence is simply stating that someone or something is so many years old, then don’t use a hyphen:

  • Her dad turned sixty years old today.
  • His baseball is seventy years old.