more english

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Thu Mar 9 12:09:25 CST 2000

On Thu, 9 Mar 2000, Thomas DiBenedetto wrote:

> Sorry Elizabeth, but this strikes me as quite absurd. I must accept being
> ridiculous in order to be correct??? Do you imagine that any scientist worth
> their salt would value stylistic correctness over scientific correctness?
> Sorry, but that is contrary to what I envision being a scientist is all
> about. Scientists must have the right to describe their understanding in
> terms that make sense to them.

First of all, scientist and their (see above, "...scientist worth their
salt...") must be in agreement.  Second I disagree with the last sentence
above:  as scientists, we have the responsibility to communicate our
understanding in terms that make sense to our readers.

> The CBE rule is not THE rule, it is their rule, and I think it rather
> archaic. And it is contrary to standard practice in a considerable part of
> the modern systematic literature. It is, simply _wrong_, given a certain
> scientific perspective. It is true that not all scientists share that
> perspective, but for those of us who do, it is not a trivial point. And I
> will not use literary constructions which _make no sense_ from my
> perspective, no matter how nice you or the CBE think they sound. Nor do I
> think that you have the right to ask that of me.

I can agree with Tom up to a point.  The final judgment will typically be
made by an editor, and it helps if editors have a common standard to
apply.  But, language usage being what it is, I suspect that many editors
and authors disagree, as do many editors and other editors. The essence of
language is communication, and effective communication of ideas is what we
must strive for.  As I noted late last year, common usage in English is
now treating "data is" and other such constructions as acceptable.


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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