Standard Usages Devised to Avoid Confusion

Here is a short list of common usages that help to avoid being misunderstood. They are not necessarily better than other possibilities save that most writer use them as they have proven to be effective.

  1. There must be a space between a number and the relative unit. View the unit as the noun and number as an adjective modifying the noun (unit). Since unit is a "noun" you can shove all the individual components of the unit together as long as you observe the standard abbreviation -- 86.4 PJ/d (= 1.0 GW).
    Note that the number is kept as close to unity as possible (between hundreds and hundreth). But if the number is less than 1, there must be a zero before decimal point to avoid confusion, e.g., 0.073 If you write .7, reader may not see decimal; 0.7 avoids confusion.
    N.B. See 3x5 card handed out in class or "guide to units" in header of course webpage.
  2. Readers expect sentence to start with capitalized word, even if the word is not normally capitalized. So avoid abbreviations that may confused; e.g., United States not U.S.; Cadium not Cd.
    Of course, some abbreviations have become words or many may not know the original word that was abbreviated; e.g., CD (altho Compact disk is certainly o.k.), IBM (especially as company legally changed name to IBM from International Business Machines), but only LTE.
  3. Avoid starting sentences with numbers and symbols that don't have capital form. In the case of numbers you can spell it out, but that only works effectively for integers, especially short ones. So "87 years ago" doesn't work. Lincoln knew that "four score and seven years ago" worked better not only for written version and also the spoken one. Try starting written sentence with word version of current year.
    Elements have word form, but compounds are more difficult at the sentence beginning. Carbon dioxides work fine but what about high temperature superconductor as the first work of sentence-- La1.85Sr0.15Cu2O8-- even it you spell it out? Typically such complicated compounds are reduced to set of initials -- e.g., YBCO -- but don't start a sentence with it until it is defined and avoid in front of non-technical audience.

Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. What did I omit or get wrong?
To cite this page:
Standard Usages Devised to Avoid Confusion
[Tuesday, 21-Nov-2017 10:35:23 EST]
Edited by: on Friday, 21-Aug-2015 10:56:48 EDT