more english

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Thu Mar 9 10:47:49 CST 2000

I suspect that we all can quote a source to support our position.  For
example, one of my favorite references indicates that "...collectives
[nouns]...require a singular verb when the group, as a group, is being
discussed."  Thus, when I am referring to Asteraceae as a single entity,
the family, I use a singular verb.

I find it interesting that we apply different rules under different
circumstances.  Is it correct to say that "Los Angeles are in
California"? After all, Los Angeles is a plural construction.  I believe
we can recognize the implied sense in which a collective noun is used and
choose the verb accordingly.  That is, we know that the preceding example
is implicity telling us that "The city of Los Angeles is in
California."  The opening phrase becomes redundant and we simply say "Los
Angeles is..."

Thus, because we know that Astercaeae is the name of a family, it
is unnecessary to write "The family Asteraceae is characterized
by...".  The phrase, "The family..." is redundant and is implicit in a
sentence that begins "Asteraceae is characterized by..."  Similarly, we do
not need to use the unnecessarily wordy construction "Members of the
Asteraceae are endemics in several Pacific archipelagos" when the more
concise sentence, "Asteraceae are endemics in several..," conveys exactly
the same idea.  The context usually (admittedly not always) lets us know
if the Asteraceae is being referred to as a single entity or if we are
referring to only some members of the family.

I think it makes good editorial sense to avoid unnecessary redundancies
when the the meaning is clear.


Richard J. Jensen      |   E-MAIL: rjensen at
Dept. of Biology       |   TELEPHONE: 219-284-4674
Saint Mary's College   |   FAX: 219-284-4716
Notre Dame, IN  46556  |

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