more english

Thomas DiBenedetto TDibenedetto at DCCMC.ORG
Thu Mar 9 10:39:56 CST 2000

Elizabeth Kiser wrote:
"police" is a plural collective noun and thus takes a plural verb. Hence,
one would say, "The police are/were..."
I agree with this.
According to "Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors,
Editors, and Publishers" Sixth Edition, "Names at the rank of family and
above are plural in form and therefore requie plural verbs and pronouns.
'The Rosales are estimated to comprise 6600 species.'
But not this.
I do not think that scientists should defer to literary stylists on an issue
of science. Taxa are meant to represent lineages, and lineages are
historical individuals. When taxa were merely collections of similar
organisms or species, then it was appropriate to consider them as collective
plurals, like the police. But in the evolutionary paradigm, taxa are meant
to refer to real, coherent historical entities. Just as one says "Mary IS
the sister of Tom" or "Huso huso IS the sister group of Huso dauricus", one
can say "Mammalia IS the sister group of Reptilia". There is no underlying
qualitative difference between a taxon above or below the family level. It
is time for the stylists to join the evolutionary era.

Tom DiBenedetto
tdib at

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