That’s a new one

500 uL

Also seen: “five hundred thousand cells”; “fifty micrograms”; “forty eight hours”.

Amazingly enough, I was able to cut the length of the Materials and Methods section by more than twenty one percent >21%.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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25 Responses to That’s a new one

  1. Amelie says:

    Amazing 🙂
    I do wonder why it wasn’t twenty thousand eight hundred g though.

  2. Technically, the person who originally wrote that sentence is correct in that you should not start a sentence with a number but should spell it out using words. When it comes to grants though, all rules go out the window!

    • But aren’t numbers associated with units never supposed to be spelled out? e.g. I write out the numbers 1-10 in words (unless I’m specifying a range, like i just did, or want to emphasise a comparison with larger numbers in the same sentence, e.g. “14 of the 30 test group responded, compared to 2 of the 30 controls), but I would always put 4 mM, 5 mm etc.

      I have literally never seen anyone write out “five hundred microlitres” before…

  3. Catherine says:

    That’s how I was taught – by an organic chemist no less – if you start a sentence with a number, you write it out in full.

    • I’m with Prof in Training and Catherine on this. Never, ever use a numeral to start a sentence.

      The units I’m not sure about, although if the numbers are written out in long form, then it seems best to me that the units should be too (“microlitres”).

      Also, I believe the “degree” sign before “C” is redundant, according to S.I. standards. I could be wrong though, but if I’m right, I just saved you another character. 😀

  4. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Well, you learn something new every day! Never heard that rule before. Thanks all!

    I still maintain that it looks weird with units in a materials and methods section, though 🙂

  5. Nina says:

    you can try to rewrite it so the sentence doesn’t start with the number and you don’t have to spell it out?

    • As I replied above (repeating it here for the sake of completeness):

      “re-write to avoid controversy” is indeed my usual preference, but in this case I didn’t realise there was a controversy until it was too late – I’d already sent my edits back before posting this!

  6. Crystal Voodoo says:

    I do a lot of science editing for spare cash. This is one of the top three most frequent issues I run across. The other two are the overuse of modifiers and strings of redundant prepositions. It boggles the mind at how much excess you can remove if you put a little thought into sentence composition.

    • It boggles the mind how few people seem to have read any scientific papers before attempting to write their own!

      (I’m not referring to this specific manuscript, but rather to a general pattern of people just not seeming to understand the conventions of the format)

      • Grant says:

        “It boggles the mind how few people seem to have read any scientific papers before attempting to write their own!”

        I find that very hard to imagine. They ought to have been reading papers since senior undergraduate classes, surely. Mind you, I can imagine plenty not thinking about how to write a paper, though, bad as that is.

  7. bean-mom says:

    Cut by more than 21%? Amazing, Cath.

    • Thanks! I find that the more experienced trainees become, the less detail they put in their M&M sections. This paper seemed to be closer to the “inexperienced, describe every single detail” end of the spectrum 🙂

      • FunkDoctorX says:

        Yea, but I don’t agree with you completely on this one. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to replicate someone else’s work and there isn’t enough detail in the methods section to do so. I’d rather err on the side of too much rather than too little info (although of course, at some point the too much can get a little ridiculous)….

        • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

          Well, there’s definitely a minimum requirement. But IME, some n00bs stop just short of telling you what they had for breakfast on the day of each experiment, and what colour socks they were wearing…

  8. chall says:

    a question nothing to do with SI units… What’s happened to the hockey pool? Am I missing the updates and I should’ve done them or? …. just know that i’m proboably in the bottom and my leafs are going out… and wings are moving downwarss… *insert more whining*

    hey, it’s Monday! 😉

  9. Pingback: Teaching students to write scientific papers | Code for Life

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