Orthography And Punctuation

"It's the punctilious attention to detail, in a time when nobody even bothers to get the spelling of your name right." Holly Brubach

3.1 | CORRECT SPELLING 3.1.1 | GETTING WORDS RIGHT

The spelling of English is erratic and often illogical. Thus, for a non-native speaker of English, correct spelling is difficult to learn and requires constant reading of English-language material and intensive study of the subject. Words in medical, scientific, and technical texts must be spelled correctly (see also 2.3, The BASO Pyramid of Scientific Writing). Erroneous spelling is a mark of illiteracy or at least carelessness. Even if we accept that good spelling may be a talent not every good scientist can call his or her own, there is no justification for spelling deficiencies.

Spelling is more than just getting words right. We do not only owe it to the readers to furnish them with proper spelling; we also owe it to ourselves as writers. Although "sloppy" writing in modern everyday communication (e.g., e-mails, SMS, or advertisements) has gained broad acceptance in recent years, few scientific professionals would approve of improper spelling in scientific publications. Even though many spelling errors are typing errors that have escaped the attention of the writer and/or editor, misspelled words are distracting and annoying to the reader. More importantly, poor spelling may lead the reader to conclude that our reported results were obtained with equal carelessness. Needless to say, this detracts from the credibility of our findings.

Q Misspelled words in sciences distract and annoy the reader. The credibility of your work hinges on the proper use of the language.

3.1.2 | USING SPELL CHECKERS

Can the spell checker on your computer help? Modern tools have made it possible to screen texts for spelling mistakes and language inconsistencies, but there are clear limitations. Many words used erroneously in a specific context may escape the spell checker because the faulty word may not be misspelled as such (e.g., "on" in place of "one," "how" in place of "who," "loose" in place of "lose," "it's" in place of "its"). The list of such examples is endless and goes beyond the scope of this book. Nonetheless, my advice is to always use the electronic spell checker before releasing a document, however small, but to apply it in addition to manual proofreading, and never instead of it.

Q Every document that leaves the writer's desk must have undergone careful screening for spelling errors, both by the author/editor and the spell checker.

3.2 | CONSISTENT SPELLING: AMERICAN ENGLISHVERSUS BRITISH ENGLISH

"Correctness" may sometimes depend on the type of English chosen. Is it "color" or "colour"? Is it "labelled" or "labeled"? Is "hemoglobin" or "haemoglobin" correct? The answer depends on whether you use American or British spelling.

Despite the widespread transfer of expressions between Britain and the USA, there are still some differences in spelling. Identifying and applying the appropriate spelling becomes less troublesome if we consider the word groups typically affected by this difference (see Appendix 10.2, American English versus British English: Groups of Words Affected by the Different Spelling). The list shows examples only and is therefore by no means exhaustive.

Although there is a general trend towards American usage, you are free to choose between American and British English in many situations, unless the recipient of your document has specific requirements. Most journals accept British and American English in manuscripts intended for publication, but the language chosen must be used consistently. Without any doubt, a mixture of the two is tiresome and annoying to the reader. Therefore, scientific writers must be aware of these differences and should consult a good dictionary if in doubt.

Q A mixture of American and British spelling within any one document is both confusing and annoying to the reader.

If you are unsure of the appropriate language for your manuscript, consider the simple rules below:

Q •If you have the choice, use either American or British spelling, but do so consistently. Keep your target audience in mind (European or international).

• If language requirements are defined (e.g., company-internal conventions, journal house style, publishers' requirements), use the given spelling rules consistently.

Q Exercise 1

3.3 | PUNCTUATION

3.3.1 | PROPER USE OF PUNCTUATION MARKS

Contrary to widespread opinion, punctuation rules are important in scientific, medical, and technical reporting. Because punctuation marks are devised to eliminate ambiguities, they should be applied prudently and consistently. Mistakes in punctuation and haphazard use of punctuation marks undercut the authority of the text and therefore compromise the credibility of your work.

Generally speaking, shorter sentences require less punctuation than do longer ones. Since the reader more readily understands shorter sentences (see also 2.2, The Plain Language Movement), it is good advice to limit the length of sentences. This reduces the number of commas and other punctuation marks at the same time.

The most commonly used punctuation marks in scientific texts are the comma and period (called a "full stop" in British English). After a period, there is a single space, contrary to a commonly held view among less experienced writers that two spaces are needed. This notion comes from the days of the manual typewriter where two spaces were, in fact, used after a period.

Other punctuation marks frequently used include the colon, semicolon, hyphen, apostrophe, slash (also called virgule), and brackets and parentheses. Writers must be sure to apply them correctly. Appendix 10.3 lists the punctuation marks used in scientific texts and shows examples of using them correctly.

The sections below address some special punctuation marks that frequently cause problems in scientific texts.

3.3.2 | HYPHENS ANDWORD DIVISION

The hyphen connects words, prefixes, and suffixes. Although hyphens help to prevent ambiguity and clarify meaning, they should be used sparingly and consistently. However, certain compound words always contain hyphens. Such hyphens are called "orthographic." Examples are brother-in-law, free-for-call, or up-to-date.

Hyphens are no longer necessary for prefixes such as intra, inter, pre, post, non, re, sub, etc., unless the prefix ends with a vowel and the main word starts with a vowel, e.g., anti-inflammatory, pre-examination, re-analyzed (see also Appendix 10.3). The rules below describe some other situations where you should not use a hyphen:

Q • Do not hyphenate Latin expressions or non-English-language phrases used in an adjectival sense, e.g., in vivo experiments, an a priori argument, postmortem findings.

• In the text, do not use hyphens to express a range (e.g., 10% to 20% of the substance), except if the range expresses fiscal years or life spans (e.g., the 2003-2005 data set) or if the range is given in parentheses (mean age was 22 years; [range, 11-32 years]).

• Do not hyphenate modifiers in which the second element is a number or letter, e.g., Type II diabetes, Grade A material.

The question about stand-alone prefixes comes up regularly, e.g., when a contrasting nonhyphenated prefix follows. Examples are terms such as pre-and postinfusion heart rate or intra- and intersubject variation. Although there is growing acceptance of such stand-alone prefixes, it is still good advice to spell out the full term. Thus, I prefer pre-infusion and post-infusion heart rate (here, the hyphens are used because two vowels meet in "pre-infusion" and the same format is applied to "post-infusion" for consistency), or intrasubject and intersubject variation.

Hyphens are also used to break a word at the end of a line. However, words that are divided at the right-hand margin are an interruption to the reader, and incorrectly divided words slow the reader down even more. Thus, word division should be limited to obvious word breaks, e.g., in words with prefixes or suffixes and in compound words. Both parts of a divided word should be pronounceable.

If you choose to divide a term, use the "optional hyphen" on your computer [ctrl+hyphen] rather than the standard hyphen or en dash (see 3.3.3, Punctuation Marks Indicating Emotion). The optional hyphen will allow word breaks only at the end of a line. If the hyphenated term is no longer at the end of a line (either because the length of lines varies with different computers or information has been added or deleted after hyphenating the term), the hyphen will not appear in print.

Divide words only if necessary, and divide them correctly. Unnecessary hyphens in the middle of the text are distracting and annoying.

3.3.3 | PUNCTUATION MARKS INDICATING EMOTION

A few punctuation marks indicate emotion, suspense, anticipation, or surprise. Because such sensations have no place in science, these punctuation marks should not be used in scientific writing. "Emotional" punctuation marks include the exclamation point, question mark, and dash.

I cannot think of a single situation where an exclamation point would be appropriate in scientific texts. Very occasionally, you may need the question mark, for example if someone is being quoted.

At each visit, the investigator asked the patient, "Have you experienced any adverse events since the last visit?"

In general, dashes should be used sparingly in scientific texts, but we do have the occasional use for the en dash, for example to indicate relational distinction in a hyphenated term (see Table 3.1). Unfortunately, the en dash is often confused with the hyphen, and many unaware writers use them interchangeably.

While hyphens are used to connect or split words (see also 3.3.2, Hyphens and Word Division), the en dash is only used in special cases. Dashes, if used to add supplementary information, are best replaced by a pair of commas or, alternatively, by parentheses (see 3.3.4, Parentheses and Brackets).

Table 3.1 shows the four types of dashes that differ in length. The en dash is longer than a hyphen but is half the length of the em dash.

Table 3.1 The Four Types of Dashes

NAME OF DASH

SYMBOL APPROPRIATE USE

en dash

- The en dash shows relational distinction in a hyphenated or compound modifier if one element consists of two words or a hyphenated word, or when the word being modified is a compound.

Multiple sclerosis-like symptoms, Krebs-Henseleit-buffered solution, post-World War II, non-English-language journals

em dash

— Not used in scientific writing because it indicates a sudden interruption or break in thought (see also 3.3.3, Punctuation Marks Indicating Emotion).

2-em dash

-- Not used in scientific writing.

3-em dash

--- Not used in scientific writing.

3.3.4 | PARENTHESES AND BRACKETS

Parentheses (round brackets) and brackets [square brackets] are internal punctuation marks used to set off additional information, explanation, or direction. In mathematical or chemical expressions, parentheses alert the reader to special functions occurring within. If the parenthetical material is closely related to the main part of the sentence, commas are preferred to parentheses.

Parenthetical information within a parenthetical expression is enclosed in brackets.

^ (We studied the neurophysiological changes of the aging brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI] or positron emission tomography [PET] techniques.)

In mathematical formulas, the trend is to use only parentheses and brackets. The braces used formerly are slowly being phased out, but some authors and journals still retain them. In mathematical equations, parentheses are generally used for the innermost units. If in doubt, consult the current edition of USP Dictionary of USAN and International Drug Names for drug formularies, and The Merck Index for chemical compounds to verify the use of parentheses and brackets.

Brackets are used also to indicate editorial interpolation within a quotation and to enclose corrections, explanations, or comments in quoted material. Moreover, most current scientific journals use brackets to indicate literature references.

^ Many authors have described a link between metabolic syndrome and the subsequent development of diabetes [1, 3, 10].

To avoid adjacent parentheses or brackets, change the second set to parentheses, or vice versa.

^ The weakest effect occurred at the lowest dose (10 mg/kg) [Table 3].

3.3.5 | PERIODS IN TITLES AND ACADEMIC DEGREES

Should there be a period after Mr, Ms, Mrs, Dr, and Prof? And should periods be used in MD, PhD, BSc, MA, and BA? The answer depends on whom you ask.

Omission of a period in Mr, Ms, Mrs, or Dr is justified because these short forms are suspensions (see 3.4.6, Suspensions). Suspensions are shortened word forms that consist of the first and last letters of the full word, thus rendering the term "suspended" rather than simply abbreviated. In contrast, "Prof." is not a suspension and should therefore be handled as a "true" abbreviation (see 3.4.2, True Abbreviations).

While the traditional Anglo-Saxon approach tends to adhere to the rule for suspensions (i.e., omitting the periods), international use of English has led to a more widespread acceptance of periods in social titles such as Mr. and Dr. In principle, you can decide on either style, as long as consistency is being maintained.

Similarly, you can use periods in academic titles or, alternatively, omit them. As scientific English evolves, periods tend to become less popular in shortened word forms (except in true abbreviations, e.g., temp.). There is no definitive rule, other than the need to be consistent. Thus, if you opt for PhD, use BSc, MA, and MD.

Many writers are uncertain about the correct academic degrees, especially with those obtained in non-English-speaking countries. Because academic training systems tend to vary across the borders, it is often difficult to find the exact English translation. Occasionally, it is good advice to retain the degree description in its original language, even if it appears in an English text. In most cases, however, there is an international term that correctly describes the degree in question (see Appendix 10.6, List of Academic Degrees and Honors).

3.3.6 | APOSTROPHES IN CONTRACTIONS

Contractions are shortened word combinations in which one or several letters are omitted. Examples of contractions are it's, shouldn't, can't, and don't. Contractions are well accepted in informal writing, but they must never be used in formal professional writing. Here, you should always use the noncontracted forms (it is, should not, cannot, and do not).

Q Never use contractions in scientific, technical, medical, or other professional texts.

3.3.7 | NONBREAKING SPACES AND HYPHENS

In the past, no one cared much if word combinations, such as numbers accompanied by a unit of measurement or hyphenated expressions representing a single word, were separated at the end of a line. Nowadays, scientific writers do not only have to understand what they are writing about; they also have to apply modern typographic conventions. Spaces between terms that should stay together (e.g., 10 mL, 5 h, pH 7) should be protected by inserting a so-called nonbreaking space. Similarly, hyphenated terms (e.g., 2-way system, io-fold dilution) that should not be separated are permanently secured by the use of the nonbreaking hyphen.

Both the nonbreaking space and hyphen are inserted via the insert menu on the tool bar of your computer (insert — symbol — special characters — nonbreaking space or nonbreaking hyphen). Alternatively, you can use the appropriate shortcut keys (usually ctrl+shift+space for nonbreaking space, and ctrl+shift+hyphen for nonbreaking hyphen).

Q Use nonbreaking spaces and hyphens to avoid inappropriate separation of terms.

Q Exercise 2

3.4 | SHORTENEDWORD FORMS IN SCIENTIFIC WRITING 3.4.1 | TYPES OF ABBREVIATIONS

We often use the term "abbreviation" for any shortened form in scientific writing. More correctly, we distinguish between the following shortened forms of words or phrases:

Table 3.2 Types of Shortened Forms

SHORTENED FORMS

EXAMPLES

True abbreviations

temp., Prof., approx.

Units of measurement

mL, h, s, m, km

Acronyms

AIDS, ELISA, NATO, ANOVA

Initialisms

HPLC, WHO, ATP, DNA

Contractions

isn't, shouldn't, doesn't, it's (see also 3.3.6, Apostrophes in Contractions)

Suspensions

Mr, Ms, Dr, cont'd, (see also 3.3.5, Periods in Titles and Academic Degrees)

Shortened or contracted forms of words or phrases replace the full term. Clearly, the use of such short forms helps to save time, space, and printing cost. Nonetheless, many professional journals discourage the use of shortened word forms unless these are well-recognized clinical, technical, or general terms or accepted units of measurement. In any case, obscure abbreviations that are not used internationally should be avoided because they confuse, rather than enlighten, the reader (see also 3.4.4, Acronyms and Initialisms).

If you are uncertain whether a term is internationally accepted or not, use a commonly accepted list of abbreviations (e.g., The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers).

The following rules apply to all abbreviations used in scientific writing:

Q • Define abbreviations the first time they appear. Subsequently, use the abbreviation rather than the full term.

• Avoid abbreviations in titles and abstracts.

• Use a glossary of abbreviations (unless this is not encouraged by the journal to which you wish to submit your paper).

3.4.2 | TRUE ABBREVIATIONS

True abbreviations are those that simply shorten a longer term (e.g., approx.; see also 3.3.5, Periods in Titles and Academic Degrees). Such short forms are given in lowercase letters unless the full term is a proper name or the abbreviation is the first word in a sentence. Use these short forms sparingly and avoid shortened terms that cause confusion. In tables, figures, or parentheses, abbreviations can be used to save space. However, these must be defined in full, either in a footnote or legend.

3.4.2.1 | LATIN ABBREVIATIONS

Generally speaking, English terms and abbreviations are preferred to Latin expressions or other foreign words. However, some Latin abbreviations are commonly used in science, preferably confined to parenthetical references. The use of these abbreviations makes sense because they are shorter than their English equivalents.

Commonly used Latin abbreviations include cf. (confer, compare), etc. (et cetera, and so forth), e.g. (exempligratia, for example), et al. (et alii, and others; note that there is a period after al. but not after et), and i.e. (id est, that is).

^ In certain infections (e.g., endocarditis, foreign-body infections) or infections in immunocompromised patients, bactericidal activity (i.e., the killing of bacteria) is indispensable for clinical cure.

For e.g. and i.e., current conventions generally still recommend the use of periods as shown above, but the trend is towards omitting the periods. Similarly, italics in Latin and other foreign terms are increasingly being avoided. As is true for every situation, the overriding rule is to be consistent, and to consult the appropriate house-style recommendations or editorial requirements before finalizing your manuscript.

3.4.3 | UNITS OF MEASUREMENT

Units of measurement are abbreviated when used with numerical values but are not abbreviated if used without numerical values.

9 We added NaCl (4 mg). Concentrations are expressed as milligrams of sodium chloride per liter of water.

Use Arabic numerals in combination with units, such as length, weight, percentages, and degrees of temperature. The plural form of units of measurement is the same as the singular form (e.g., 1 mL, 10 mL; 1 h, 10 h). Remember to leave a space between the number and unit, except for the percentage mark that follows the number without a space.

^ The patients received a daily dose of either 1 mg or 10 mg for 14 days. The mortality rate in the 6-month toxicity study in rats was 1.2%.

"Système International d'Unités" (SI units) and symbols, and certain derived SI units, have become part of the language of science. This modern metric system should be mastered by all scientific professionals and students. Units of measurement often cause confusion in scientific texts, especially if they are used inconsistently. The problem arises because the SI system does not define many units used commonly in science. The system, based on eight fundamental units of measurement (Lippert and Lehmann, 1978), was designed to harmonize the international use of units and to combat confusion and inconsistencies in the traditional metric system. Table 3.3 shows the SI fundamental units of measurement.

Table 3.3 SI Fundamental Units of Measurement

PROPERTY

BASE UNIT

SI SYMBOL

Length

meter

m

Mass

kilogram

kg

Time

second

s

Concentration

molar

M

Amount

mole

mol

Thermodynamic temperature

kelvin

K

Electric current

ampere

A

Luminous intensity

candela

cd

Other units, such as liter or hour, are derived from these base units. Although no definitive symbol exists for these derived units, a simple "h" for hour and an "L" for liter are nowadays standard. The "L" for liter may or may not be capitalized, although the capital L is gaining broader acceptance. Make sure to use the same symbol for units containing "L," e.g., ^L, mL, or dL. Table 3.4 shows the standard SI prefixes to express multiples.

Table 3.4 Standard SI Prefixes

FACTOR (POWER OF 10)

SI PREFIX

SYMBOL

18

exa-

E

15

peta-

P

12

tera-

T

9

giga-

G

6

mega-

M

3

kilo-

k

-3

milli-

m

Table 3.4 (Continued) Standard SI Prefixes

FACTOR (POWER OF 10)

SI PREFIX

SYMBOL

-6

micro-

-9

nano-

n

-12

pico-

p

-15

femto-

f

-18

atto-

a

Q • Use units of measurement consistently (e.g., ml or mL).

• Use the same abbreviations for the singular and plural forms (e.g., 1 mL, 10 mL; 1 h, 3 h; 1 cm, 50 cm).

3.4.4 | ACRONYMS AND INITIALISMS

An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words. Acronyms are pronounced as words. Similarly, initialisms are built from the first letters of a group of words but here, each letter is pronounced separately.

In scientific writing, acronyms and initialisms are handled in the same way. Generally speaking, they should be used sparingly (usually only for terms mentioned at least five times in any text). However, this may depend on the guidelines or house style of the relevant organization or journal for which the manuscript is being written. In any case, obscure acronyms or initialisms that are not internationally used should be avoided (see also 3.4.1, Types of Abbreviations).

Here are the rules governing the use of acronyms and initialisms:

Q • Use capitals and no periods (full stops) for acronyms and initialisms. Exceptions are words that have become commonly accepted as nouns (e.g., laser, scuba).

• Do not capitalize the words from which an acronym or initialism is derived (e.g., prostate-specific antigen [PSA]).

• Use no apostrophe in plural forms (e.g., ECGs, RBCs).

In texts and reports other than manuscripts intended for publication in a scientific journal, you should provide a glossary of abbreviations. A glossary allows the reader to quickly access the full term if there is uncertainty. However, a glossary never replaces the introduction of the abbreviated term in the text; it is provided in addition to the individual definitions rather than instead.

3.4.5 | CONTRACTIONS

Contractions are shortened word combinations in which one or more letters are omitted (e.g., it's, shouldn't, don't). As pointed out in 3.3.6, Apostrophes in Contractions, contractions are well accepted in speech or informal writing, but they have no place in formal professional writing. Thus, the correct forms in formal writing are "it is, should not, do not," etc.

3.4.6 | SUSPENSIONS

Suspensions are shortened word forms that consist of the first and last letters of the full word. Examples are titles of persons (e.g., Mr, Ms, Mrs, and Dr) commonly used in combination with the full name, for example, Dr Albert Schweitzer (see also 3.3.5, Periods in Titles and Academic Degrees). Although the distinction between true abbreviations (e.g., Prof., requiring a period) and suspensions (e.g., Mr, not requiring a period) originally reflected British usage of the English language, the general move towards using periods in "Mr" and "Dr" is becoming increasingly widespread.

Q Suspensions (e.g., Mr, Dr) do not have to be followed by a period. True abbreviations (e.g., Prof.), however, always end with a period.

3.5.1 | EXPRESSING NUMBERS IN SCIENTIFIC TEXTS

Numbers play an important role in scientific communication. Most scientific texts contain numbers, and in many types of texts, such as clinical or statistical reports, numbers may even predominate over simple words. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to express numbers in a consistent and logical manner.

Q Getting your numbers right first time saves much time and effort in subsequent editing rounds.

Unfortunately, rules for writing numbers tend to vary between sources, which complicates the issue to some extent. Rules depend not only on the type of manuscript in preparation but also on the body making the rule. Moreover, conventions in number expression are changing as time goes on. A conservative rule that many editors and writing experts still recommend is this:

o Spell out one-digit numbers (one to nine) and use numerals for all larger numbers.

There are, however, some exceptions as shown in Table 3.5.

Table 3.5 Spelling Numbers Correctly

WHERE

HOW

At the beginning of a sentence

Spell out numbers at the beginning of a sentence. With very large numbers, rearrange the sentence in such a way that the number is no longer at the beginning.

With units of measurement

Always use numerals if a unit of measurement follows (e.g., 3 mL, 9 h, 5 min).

In a series

In a series, use numerals if any number in the series is 10 or larger (e.g., In total, 2 monkeys, 5 rabbits, and 12 rats were used.).

If two numbers appear back to back

If two numbers appear back to back, write one out (e.g., ten 20-mg doses).

An increasing number of international journals now use numerals (Arabic numbers) throughout, even for very small numbers. This trend is expected to continue in an effort to shorten texts and reduce printing costs. Therefore, it is important to consult the guidelines of the editor/organizer in question before starting to write.

Terms such as "billion," "trillion," and "quadrillion" should be avoided because they mean different numbers in Europe and the USA.

In narrative sections of a manuscript, try to avoid powers of 10 as they can be difficult to interpret. However, there are situations where powers make sense because this is shorter, for example in tables, figures, or parenthetical information, as shown in the example below:

^ Sales were substantially higher in 2005 than last year (i.e., 1.2 x 109 units versus 0.8 x io9 units sold in 2004).

Q Whatever style of expressing numbers you adopt, remember to be consistent. Heterogeneous styles in any single document are both distracting and annoying to the reader.

3.5.2 | FORMATS OF NUMBERS

Decimal points and thousands create much confusion in scientific writing because of the divergent styles used in different languages. A particular problem is the decimal point that is used differently in English and German. In English, a comma denotes thousands, while in German the comma stands for the decimal point.

Much effort has gone into finding an international style for thousands and fractions of numbers. Although the attempt to globalize these styles is honorable, it has not (yet) led to universally accepted conventions. My advice is to use the traditional British/American approach unless the editor/publisher or other organization has made specific provisions. Table 3.6 shows the European, traditional Anglo-Saxon, and suggested international styles.

Table 3.6 Thousands and Decimal Points

EUROPEAN

TRADITIONAL BRITISH

RECOMMENDED FOR

AND AMERICAN

INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC REPORTING

1'000

1,000 or 1000

1000

2'568

2,568 or 2568

2568

47 938,275

47,938.275

47 938.275

0,525

0.525

0.525 (always give "0" before the decimal point)

P = 0,05

P = 0.05

P = 0.05

3.5.3 | RANGES OF NUMBERS

Table 3.7 shows how to express ranges in texts, tables, parentheses, and references.

Table 3.7 Expressing Ranges

RANGES

HOW TO EXPRESS

COMMENTS

In texts

Samples 38 to 45 were scanned

Use the words "to" or "through"

at wavelengths from 240 nm to

(American) rather than a dash

350 nm.

in texts.

1938 to 1968

In tables,

Samples 38-45

Use an en dash or hyphen.

parentheses, and

see 3.2-3.7

In literature references, duplicate

references

pp. 224-248

numbers are sometimes omitted

1938-1968

(e.g., pp. 224-48).

3.5.4 | PERCENTAGES

The terms "percent," "percentage," and "percentile" cause considerable confusion in scientific texts because they are often used erroneously. "Percent," sometimes written "per cent," means in, to, or for every hundred. A number should always precede "percent." The term "percentage," however, implies a number or amount expressed in percent. Percentile is a statistical term for the value in a distribution of frequencies divided into 100 equal groups. Table 3.8 shows the correct use of these terms.

Table 3.8 Expressing Percentages Correctly

PERCENT, PERCENTAGES,

EXAMPLE

COMMENTS

AND PERCENTILES

Percent ranges

The success rate was 15% to 47%.

There is no space between the number and the percent symbol. Repeat the percent symbol for each number in a series or range, even for zero.

Percent in a series

The purities in the three batches amounted to 88%, 69%, and 99%.

Repeat the symbol for each number.

Percent at the beginning of a sentence

Fifty-seven percent of patients were free of symptoms.

Spell out both the number and the word "percent." Alternatively, rearrange the sentence.

Use the plural "were" because 57% implies 57 samples of 100 samples.

Percentages

The percentage of failures was higher in the current study.

"Percentage" implies the number of failures expressed in percent.

Percentiles

The boy's growth rate was at the 99th percentile.

Do not confuse "percentile" with "percentage."

In clinical reporting, it may be more meaningful to give the actual number of subjects or patients if the population includes fewer than 50 subjects. Sometimes, the actual number is followed by the percentage in parentheses. Decimals in percentages should only be used if the 100% value is higher than 1000.

^ Serious adverse events occurred in 5 (10%) patients. Of the 1278 patients participating, 37 (2.9%) did not respond to treatment.

Q Exercise 3

3.6 | CAPITALIZATION

3.6.1 | USE OF CAPITALS IN SCIENTIFIC ENGLISH

The English language uses capitals sparingly. In scientific writing, there has been a trend over time to use fewer capitals rather than more. However, usage varies, depending on the journal's house style, company-internal conventions, and predefined document standards. Before submitting a manuscript, consult the appropriate style requirements.

Generally, the only rule we have to know is this:

Q Capitalized words in science are either proper nouns, key words in titles, or first words of sentences.

3.6.2 | CAPITALS IN PROPER NOUNS (NAMES)

Proper nouns designate a specific person, place, thing, or idea. Thus, proper nouns are names. All proper nouns are capitalized, as is any word derived from them (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, Dalton's law). The rule seems easy enough -why then is it that authors often find it hard to use proper capitalization?

Many common nouns we use in science look much like proper nouns. These include chemicals, generic drug names, microorganisms, diseases, physiological processes, or common names derived from the scientific names of plants and animals. Table 3.9 shows examples of proper and common nouns.

Table 3.9 Examples of Proper and Common Nouns

PROPER NOUNS

COMMON NOUNS

Xerox machine

photocopier

Dacron

synthetic polyester

Novocain

procaine

Aspirin*

aspirin

Doxycycline

tetracycline

IMx Rubella test

rubella

Celsius (a scientist's name)

centigrade

Asperger autism

autistic disorder

Parkinson's disease

parkinsonism

Wistar rats

transgenic rats

Alsatian dogs

beagle dogs

Staphylococcus aureus

staphylococci

Neisseria gonorrheae

gonococcus

Plasmodium falciparum

malarial parasite

3.6.3 | CAPITALS IN TITLES

In titles, you may capitalize the so-called "important" words to add emphasis. If you opt for capitalization in titles, capitalize nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, numerals, and adverbs. Do not capitalize articles, conjunctions, and prepositions. Sometimes, prepositions or conjunctions containing five or more letters (e.g., above, underneath) are also capitalized. If this is the style you use, make sure to be consistent.

^ Pharmacokinetic Parameters of the Parent Compound and the Three Metabolites in Plasma of Rats, Rabbits, and Monkeys

3.6.3.1 | CAPITALIZING HYPHENATED COMPOUNDWORDS IN TITLES

In titles, subtitles, and headings of tables or figures, capitalize both terms in compound words unless one part of the word combination is a prefix or suffix, or if both words together constitute a single word (if in doubt about hyphenating such terms, consult the current edition of Merriam- Webster's Collegiate Dictionary or Dorland's Medical Dictionary). Consider the following examples:

^ • Placebo-Controlled Study, Event-Related Potential, Aspirin-Treated Subjects, Low-Level Radioactivity (both terms capitalized)

• Anti-infective Drugs, Intra-arterial Embolism, Intra-assay Precision (second part of compound not capitalized because of prefix)

• Follow-up Studies, Short-term Analysis, X-ray Examination (second part of compound not capitalized because of single-word meaning)

3.6.4 | CAPITALS IN DESIGNATIONS

In designations, capitalize terms such as table, figure, appendix, etc., if they are accompanied by a number.

^ As indicated, Table 5 summarizes the demographic data. For individual raw data consult Appendix 2.

However, some words are not capitalized even when used as specific designations, unless they are part of a title (Table 3.10).

Table 3.10 Words Not Capitalized if Used as Designators

NONCAPITALIZED DESIGNATORS

case

fraction

notes

series

chapter

grade

page

stage

chromosome

grant

paragraph

stub

column

group

part

type

control

lead

patient

volume

experiment

level

phase

wave

factor

method

section

3.6.5 | CAPITALS IN NEW-AGE WORDS

One frequent question is whether modern words, such as "e-mail," should start with a capital letter. Although the New York Times initially recommended a capital "E" in their Manual of Style and Usage, e-mail (lowercased) has become the favored style all over the world. The argument is that the term has meanwhile become a household expression and would therefore no longer qualify as a proper noun. Even italicizing is no longer necessary, owing to the broad exposure of the term. Again, this is a nice example of linguistic evolution that takes into account common usage of modern words.

^ He had to change his e-mail address because of the many SPAMs sent to his account.

Q Exercise 4

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