Principles of Ecology
Principles of Ecology BSC 320
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Principles of Ecology 886 320 Dr Frank S Gilliam Dr Jeffrey D May Definition ecology The study of the relationship between organisms and their environment The study of the interactions between organisms and their environment Definition ecology The study of the relationship between organisms and their environment The study of the interactions between organisms and their environment History brief of Ecology Natural history Darwin 1859 Haeckel 1866 Principles of Ecology Ecological organization exists on many hierarchical levels Evolution true adaptation is a population phenomenon Central importance of laws of thermodynamics Ultimate control of physical environment on ecological systems Reciprocating effects between organisms and environment Necessity of constant inputs of E for organisms Evolution rewards efficiency of E use 5 Principles of Ecology Ecology is studied at many hierarchical levels 2 Evolution true adaptation is a population phenomenon Central importance of laws of thermodynamics Ultimate control of physical environment on ecological systems Reciprocating effects between organisms and environment Necessity of constant inputs of E for organisms Evolution rewards efficiency of E use 6 Am Midl Nat 155383 394 Improve Scienti c Writing and Avoid Perishing LESLIE N CARRAWAY th 104 Department ofFishm e and VVzldli e Oregon State Univerxily Corvallis 97331 ABSTRACT The purpose of scienti c writing is to impart thoughts or ideas and their bases and implications in such a manner that a reading audience with at least a moderate knowl edge of science can understand the material presented within a paper This carries the necessity of using words in a manner that clearly impart the intended meaning of t e author and not getting off the subject as reflected in the title Also the goal of scienti c writing is to produce a manuscri t written from the perspective of strength rather than weakness I discuss appropriate formation of titles such that t e intended audience can nd the title through bibliographic sources Also included to aid in the writing of scienti c manuscripts are discussions ofwords or sentences with unintended connotations misuse ofwords dou le entendres slang contrived acronymsjargon danglers or orphaned clauses and superfluous words ina y remember that the object of the art of scienti c writing is to communicate in the most concise and precise manner possible it is not to paint pretty word pictures INTRODUCTION This discussion is my concept of the way that a scienti c paper should or should not be written It is not intended to criticize but to improve precision and enhance communi cation Not everyone will agree with me but those who follow these suggestions likely will have fewer rejections and do less revising In this era of publish or perish it is imperative to produce manuscripts based on quality research but even the best research may be lost to science if the scienti c community is unable to understand the text in which it is presented FurtherTnore the goal of scienti c writing is to produce a manuscript written from the perspective of strength rather than weakness Consequently appropriate word usage syntax and punctuation are imperative TITLES Many people when asked what is the most critical or far reaching part of a scienti c paper would answer the results or conclusions drawn from the research conducted I beg to differ The single most critical item in any scienti c paper is the title Hundreds if not thousands ofpeople will read a title when searching for information on a particular topic in the various bibliographic services on the internet or in libraries And a smaller number of people will read a title in the Literature Cited sections of papers published injournals So unless readers can understand the meaning of the title the paper will never be read Thus for the intended audience to be reached clarity of intended meaning and proper order of words used in a title should be of paramount concern to authors FurtherTnore everything presented in a scienti c paper must in some manner relate back to the title If it does not then the title not only is inappropriate but the scienti c paper will be buried in oblivion a fate that no author desires The ultimate goal of every author is for many people to read their published paper and have it of such a quality that it is cited often in papers by other authors Titles should be composed of the fewest possible words that adequately describe the contents of the paper This does not mean the fewest possible number of words titles can be too short as well as too long An example of too short a title is Predatory animal 383 384 THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST 1552 studies This title tells the reader only that predators were somehow involved in the conducted research Titles should tell the reader what where when and on what species or group if relevant the research was conducted Consequently titles should form a single coherent concept actually related to the content of the paper not a sentence brief abstract subtitle hanging statement or worst of all a question Also to be considered are the uninten ed meanings created by poor word order and watch the paw tric s Sentences The primary problem with sentences for titles is they create dogma for ex ample Shrews Soricomorpha Soricidae fonn an important component of ecosystems As any scientist should know knowledge in science is ever evolving consequently what is considered true today probably will be questioned tomorrow and may be rejected at some point in the future Second consider the words important or importance Something simply cannot be important without a reason and usually it is the reason that is of interest to the reader Also to whom are the shrews important A better title would be Shrews Soricomorpha Soricidae as a component of ecosystems For another example think about the title Dandelions as an important item in the diet of cottontails Are dandelions important because more cottontails eat them Are they important because cottontails eat more of them Are t ey important because they pro vide some nutritional requirement of cottontails not available in other p ants Consider the title Pollinator importance and temporal variation in a population of Phlox divaricata Polemoniaceae published in The American Midland Naturalist A pollinator can contribute to aid in expedite or promote something but a pollinator will never be im portant in and of itself Also what exactly do the authors mean by temporal variation Possibilities include different times during which pollinators are active seasonal or diurnal variation in occurrence or numbers of divaricata present in a particular habitat changes occurring within a population of R divaricata over a 24 h time period among many others A more appropriate title would be Contribution of pollinators to reproductive success of a population of Phlox divaricata Polemoniaceae Briefabstract Consider the title The role ofrabbits in sylvatic plague epidemiology with special attention to human cases in New Mexico and use of the flourescent antibody tech nique for detection of Pasteurella pestis in eld specimens published in Zoonoses ampsearch A 32 word title is totally unreasonable The authors of the paper should have used a title like The role of rabbits in sylvatic plague epidemiology 8 words or Identi cation of Pasteurella pestis in rabbits by the flourescent antibody technique 11 words depending on which aspect of their research the authors wished to emphasize Subtitles Consider the title Phylogenetic studies of the rodent family Gerbillidae I Chromosomal evolution in the southern African complex What happens if number II is never published I know of a series in which 1 2 and 4 were published but 3 was rejected This means that the authors will forever be asked what happened to number 3 Also the rst part is too general and imparts little information to readers Hanging titles The title Sylvilagus nuttallii a semiarboreal lagomorph published in the journal ofMammalogy is a good exampleust how is a computerized Key ord nder for a bibliographic service supposed to determine how to le this title such that the intended audience would ever have a chance of nding the paper A useful version of the title would have been Tree climbing behavior by mountain cottontails Sylvilagus nuttallii Authors use hanging titles to be dramatic however authors should keep in mind that readers nd them terribly annoying and generally unintelligible Questions Why is a title written in the form of a question the worst form of title The answer is simple The entire manuscript can be stated as a single word Yes or No plus literature cited tables and gures of course Consider the following example Evaluating 2006 CARRAWAY SCIENTIFIC WRITING 385 intraspeci c network construction methods using simulated sequence data do existing algorithms outperform the global maximum parsimony approach published in Systematic Zoology Not only does this title tell the reader little if anything about what the paper is about but how would a computerized Key Word nder le this title If you were searching a bibliographic service I doubt this title would ever appear no matter what key words were used In terms of bibliographic services this is a lost paper never to be heard of again Poor word order Consider the title Unusual mortality in the depleted Cook Inlet beluga Delphinapterus leuoas population published in Northwexterri Naturalixt This title actually means that something in Cook In et wherever that is located has been deplete Also the title includes the idea that something that normally does not kill belugas is now killing them What the authors actually intended to state was Unusual mortality levels in the beluga Delphinapterus leuoax population of Cook Inlet Alaska Further consider the example Observations on the fleas Siphonaptera of some small mammals in northwestern Illinois published in The American Midland Naturalixt A reader would have the impression that the author had live fleas in a container of some sort and sat watching their behavior A better title would have been Prevalence and occurrence of fleas Siphonaptera on some small mammals in northwestern Illinois so the use offreight train wording absolutely should be avoided eg sheep red blood cells current breeding evidence or mean total small mammal catch per unit effort in which adjective and noun modi ers are overused This is a commonly used system of com pounding nouns and adjectives as a shorthand means of communicating with colleagues that actually produces nothing more than incomprehensible jargon Does current breed ing evidence mean evidence of current breeding or current evidence of breeding There could be a difference A good rule is to put the precise subject rst for emphasis and to use I I I i I I i i to indicate 39 i A so I I I i use of hyphens to indicate which adjective or noun modi er is modifying which noun easily can solve any remaining misunderstandings Watch the paw tricks Many years ago I had a Springer Spaniel named Sam who was an expert at lulling me into a false sense of security that he was going to do only what he was supposed to do Then when my attention was focused on something else he did whatever he pleased Many authors do the same thing by having a title on one subject but by the end of the Introduction they have reached an entirely different subject The subject of the title is never again touched upon in the entire manuscript After you drift off the title you might as well be writing about Aunt Bessie s lumbago and the ea population on your dog Rover as you have lost your readers and likely will not get them back again So after discussing what not to do what thoughts should be kept in mind when forming a title A title should be short 10 12 words speci c and informative It should include key words that will aid in indexing Irrelevant words should be eliminated eg A study of Investigations of Observations on Do not create strings of modi ers that become incompre ensible even if an editor or reviewer insists Remember it is your name on the byline not the editor s or reviewer s names Avoid the and other phraseology that might be construed to mean ALL aspects were studied or ALL species were studied Finally avoid abbreviations in titles especially contrived acronyms andjargon TEXT The purpose of scienti c writing is to impart thoughts or ideas and their bases and implications in such a manner that a reading audience with at least a moderate knowledge of science can understand the material presented within a paper This carries the necessity 386 THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST 1552 of using words in a manner that clearly impart the intended meaning of the authors and not getting off the subject as re ected in the title Thus words or sentences with un intended connotations misuse of words double entendres slang contrived acronyms jargon danglers or orphaned clauses and super uous words have no place in scienti c writing Also proper use of word tense number and voice is imperative When writing a manuscript always remember that Webster s Thir ew nternational Dictionary Unabridged is considered the nal authority on the meanings and usages of words in the English language lacemmt of modi en Writing is stronger when split compound verbs except with negatives are avoided Use plots were monitored continuously rather than plots were continuously monitored Too much emphasis is placed on the adverb Avoid unnecessary split in nitives Use to examine carefully rather than to carefully examine Again too much emphasis is placed on the adverb And always use in nitives rather than gerunds To go is easier than to stay rather than Going is easier than staying Remember word usage and order syntax and punctuation are different in scienti c writing than speaking When speaking it is always possible for the listener to have a point clari ed however a reader has only what is printed on a page Also to be considered is the need for proper andjudicious use of punctuation 112 commas semicolons colons hyphens The present trend is toward less punctuation particularly fewer commas but such requires careful writing without misplaced or dangling elements Get ready xmtemes Many times in Introduction Results or Discussion sections of papers authors start a paragraph with a sentence that merely states what the author is going to tell the reader in the paragraph This is called a Topic Sentence or a Get Ready Sentence that actually only serves as ller in a manuscript Such sentences may be appropriate literary style but are too expensive for science writing Further it may be considered a delay tactic in writing while the author is trying to ascertain what to report to readers There is no need to tell readers what they will read Simply discuss the subject and analyses of the paper as re ected in the title Consider a paper with the title Sexual segregation in southern mule eer The introduction began with the sentence literature citations omitted The role of sexual dimorphism in niche separation has been investigated for birds sh and plants An obvious question to ask is What does this have to do with mule deer Also based on the title the paper has nothing to do with sexual dimorphism or niche separation Also is the problem of some authors who write about tables and gures in the text Examples would be Table 1 contains the data collected on habitat characteristics or Figure 3 illustrates the change in population levels from 1900 2000 Tables and gures should never be subjects of sentences They should be used only as support for or against statements contentions or hypotheses stated in the manuscript Also the text should be about the subject matter do not use names of authors as the subject of sentences Fur thermore avoid including great quantities of data and expecting readers to synthesize and interprete the information in t e manner intended nintended connotatiom Some words such as mean can impart a different meaning than intended if the writer is not careful For example Mean deer lengths Are these longer then docile deer lengths Try Mean lengths of deer Be careful of average for the same reason Exceptional deer may not be longer than average deer Another commonly misused word is since It has a time connotation 112 from some time in the past to the present Thus for clarity do not use since as a synonym for because or as In I and ecological smdi s 39 misused words are taken and made Examples are Bilateral measurements were taken on both sides and avera ed Five dimensions were made from each tree or stream prairie or Measurements were 2006 CARRAWAY SCIENTIFIC WRITING 387 taken from 25 skulls Dimensions characters or features can be recorded or described but they can never be extracted or formulated Misuse ofwm dx Certainly the word using is responsible for more ludicrous assertations in the literature than any other Consider the example Cottontails were caught using live traps Althou h cottontails may be caught in live traps they do not use them Try the prepositions in or with or t e phrase by use of to avoid ambiguous meanings ie dangling or orphaned clauses Think of the title Using a beroptic bronchoscope dogs were immunized with sheep red blood cells This title actually states that the dogs used the beroptic bronchoscope What the authors intended to state was Dogs were immunized with sheep red blood cells inserted through a beroptic bronchoscope Think of the statements Cottontails prefer brushy habitats or The habitat preference of mule deer was investigated Likely what was intended was Brushy habitats support more cottontails and The dispersion of a mule deer population in relation to vegetation was investigated Avoid use of prefer or preference when implications of cognitive ability in animals are not desired or not relevant Always be sure to use correct word opposites less thangreater than lowerhigher fewermo e than thinthick narrowwide any times aut ors mix these pairings eg less thanhigher ot o is e mixing unacceptable in scienti c writing ut it can create confusion Additional examp es 0 commonly misused words are provided in Appen ix I Double entendrex The sentence Without human intervention to reduce the concentra tion of CH4 the 2 million people along the Lake Kivu shoreline may suffer a catastrophic gas release appeared in a recent issue of Science The sentence should have been written Without human intervention to reduce the concentration of CH4 in Lake Kivu thus averting the release of lethal quantities of the gas 2 million people living along its shoreline will suffer an enormous loss of life Another example in the same issue of Science is Geneticists analyzed 3 decades of records from the Fourth People s Hospital the only psychiatric hospital in the Wuhu region of eastern China which was hit hard by the famine Was it the Fourth People s Hospital or the Wuhu region ofeastern China that was hit hard by the famine Either meaning is possible Double entendres are an example where reading a manuscript aloud probably would alert an author to the possible double meanings of the sentences thus allowing the opportunity to correct them Slang or Colloquialismx are expressions considered more appropriate to familiar conver sation than to formal speech or science writing they belong to local or regional dialects Thus their use in scienti c writing results from lazy thinking and a wish to avoid consulting a Thesaurus for the correct term These include expressions like On the one hand On the other hand studies that are carried out which side of the balance a bat falls on as a matter of fact and It should be mentioned noted pointed out emphasized Another commonly used slang term is on average What would off average mean It is better to write The average length of was greater or The distance between traps averaged 15 m greater on the new gri Contiived acronyms are acronyms that lazy authors use to avoid having to write out the names of study or collection areas dimensions examined measurements recorded labo ratory techniques and names of organisms among others Apparently many writers believe that use of contrived acronyms will greatly shorten a manuscript making it more acceptable to editors Even if some editors nd them acceptable it is the readers who suffer What contrived acronyms actually do is make reading a paper cumbersome and particularly an noying Some published papers contain so many contrived acronyms that the reader is forced to refer back to earlier sections of the paper repeatedly to determine the meanings of 388 THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST 1552 sentences this is unacceptable scienti c writing Consider the sentence A total of 170 1m2 quadrats from 14 Mbeds yielded 3621 mussels published in The American Midland Naturalist Mbeds stands for major beds The contrived acronym saved no space in the sentence but it added confusion jargon Every word is a good word when it is used in an established meaning available to all Every term is a good term if its meaning can be derived from the de nition of the words from which it is formed However terminology created to serve as a short hand means of communicating with coworkers eg group tree harvest 40 head cow calf year around or others within a select group is jargon I contend that jargon particularly unde nedjargon has no place in scienti c writing Contrary to what you might think I do not wish to prevent normal evolution of the language but clarity and precision in commu nication should be the greatest concern of any author or editor If it is absolutely necessary to coin new terms then they must be de ned clearly and precisely in text at rst usage Furthermore if words are used in other than their standard dictionary meaning they also need to be de ned clearly and precisely in text Consider the example placental scars Almost all wildlife biologists know what placental scars are but I will not use the term in a manuscript that I publish because the special meaning of thejargon cannot be derived from the dictionary meaning of placenta and scars The proper term is pigmented sites of implantation Think of the poor foreign researcher whose rst language is not English who looks up placenta and scars in Webster s Third New International Dictionary Unabridged and still cannot decipher what is meant Lastly consider the example Though these dens were some of the rst discovered and logged during the study The word logged has a variety of meanings including cutting down or writing down The word recorded or noted should have been used instead Danglers or orphaned clautet These are words or phrases that modify something implied but not stated in a sentence The sentence While browsing on a shrub a deer was stalked by a cougar implies that the cougar was browsing AND stalking at the same time What was intended was While a deer was browsing on a shrub it was stalked by a cougar Other examples are A large mass of literature has accumulated on ground squirrel burrows and How many animals were tested broken down by sex rewritten from Day 1979114 115 How to write and publith a scienti c paper Mice were caught using live traps and Habitat utilization ofbighorn sheep So what is the best method of avoiding danglers or orphaned phrases Always read sentences aloud while thinking about what actually was written Super uout words These are words that act only as ller add nothing to the meaning of sentences and sometimes unintentionally change the meaning of sentences Consider the sentences A total of six sampling stations were ch created in salt water pools and In order to compare differences between sites published in The American Midland Naturalist The same meaning would occur if the sentences read as Six sampling stations were created in salt water pools and To compare differences between sites The words A total of and In order to add nothing to the meanings of the sentences An example of an unintentional change in meaning would be the sentence A total of 24 species was identi ed with richness ranging from Not only does it contain the superfluous A total of but by including those words the meaning was changed from richness referring to 24 species to richness referring to total Additional examples of superfluous words are provided in Appendix I Tente Use ofthe simple past present or future tense is always recommended However do not change tense within paragraphs Also avoid use of the emphatic mood use When they occurred not When they did occur and the passive voice use Skunks produce musk not Muskwas produced by skunks and be careful to use the subjunctive use Ifthe 2006 CARRAWAY SCIENTIFIC WRITING 389 bait were fresh it would attract animals it takes a plural verb Remember scienti c names at all taxonomic levels take singular verbs Lastly collective nouns take singular verbs when the group is regarded as a unit but plural verbs when the individuals of the group are regarded separately Good examples would be One thousand shrews is an adequate sample however fewer than 500 shrews were trapped or To the mixture 10 g was added Probably the most common misuse of word tense is when authors refer to an area where a study was conducted Consider the examples the Rockerfeller Native Prairie is a 40 ha remnant of mesic prairie that supports more than 165 native plant species The small prairie is surrounded by dense woody vegetation or The Little River estuary consists of 154 km2 of Spartina patens dominated high marsh published in The American Midland Naturalist If volcanic eruptions hurricanes res oods and ecological succession have taught scientists anything it is that environments including study areas can be referred to in the present tense only when standing in the study area Ecosystems are dynamic So refer to characteristics of study areas as they were when the study was conducted always in the past tense Number This refers to whether aword is singular 1 item or plural more than 1 item is a plural noun that agrees with a plural verb or pronoun Examples would be These data or ata were is ata or ata was used so commonly by the media are wrong and when used with an active verb produce a ludicrous image for example The data show Data may be interpreted by an investigator or the investigator may draw inferences from data but data never show anything Also data do not have size so avoid too little data to describe inadequate samples try too few data Years ago an anon ous reviewer of a manuscript in which the author kept using the word data with singular verbs nallyjust wrote the following poem in a margin of the manuscript I never saw a little data I hope I never see some For they may be so small as to appear a single datum Although the hapless author was quite upset to be the recipient of this poem appropriate modi ers were applied in the published paper Activepassive voice Consider the sentence It was concluded that humans ate more berries than bears written in passive voice Reader s of this sentence might think that the authors are attempting to reduce their accountability for the results of their research When scientists produce a manuscript describing their research results they need to be willing to take responsibility for the content of the manuscript Thus a stronger sentence in active voice is We or I concluded that humans ate more berries than ears Sentences are strengthened by use of the active voice in which the writer asserts that the person or thing represented by the grammatical subject performs the action represented by the verb Although popular in prose writing scienti c writing is weakened by use of passive voice because it asserts that the person or thing represented by the grammatical subject is subjected to or affected by the action represented by the verb CONCLUSIONS When all the analyses and writing are done and a nished manuscript is in the author s hands if at all possible it should be set aside for at least 1 wk a month is better while other 390 THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST 1552 research is being conducted This allows time for the author s mind to forget what was implied in the writing of the set aside manuscript Then read the manuscript aloud and carefully when not in a hurry Many times authors will nd statements that suddenly make no sense or paragraphs that do not flow properly or as intended Thus an opportunity is presented that allows the author to re ne the writing before editors and reviewers demolish a manuscript for poor and unclear writing The last thing any author should 0 before sending the manuscript to a managing editor of ajournal for consideration for publication is to read the manuscript aloud to a critical listener It is truly amazing how many strange sentence structures typographical errors punctuation errors and omissions are discovered by such a simple process Finally remember that the object of the art of scienti c writing is to communicate in the most concise and precise manner possible it is not to paint pretty word pictures Acknowledgments I thank my husband B Verts for allowing me to use titles of some of his published papers and for allowing me to peruse lecture notes he used in a manuscript preparation class Also I thank all of the authors who wrote many of the illustrative examples of titles and text inc ude in this paper andjournal editors who allowed them to be published I thank H Shaw and B Verts for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript APPENDIX I Following is a selection of superfluous and often misused words in scienti c writing not included in text A flyer distributed by the Iowa State University Experiment Station on word usage served as a starting point ABOVE the above method or as mentioned above A term often used in reference to something preceeding but not necessarily above a loose reference convenient for writers but not for readers Also remember ifsomething was mentioned previously to do so again is redundant Compare with e ow ACCURATE an accurate estimate Accurate implies complete freedom from error or absolute exactness An estimate is an approximation ry a re iable estimate AFFECTEFFECT Affect is a verb that means to in uence Effect as a verb means to bring about as a noun it means result ALIQUOT Means contained an exact number of times in something else Commonly misused to mean subsam le ALONG WITH Just with will suf ce ALL OFBOTH or Just all or both will suf ce in most instances ALTERNATEALTERNATIVE Alternate implies rst one then the other Alternative implies a choice among 2 or more incompatible objects situations or courses of action AM Use when comparing more than items ompare with between AND HENCEAND TI EREF AND THUS The food supply was reduced and thus the population declined Use either the conjunction OR the conjunctive abverb not both APPARENTLYAPPARENT ean obviously clearly plainly evidently seemingly ostensibly or observably Choose other wording to make the intent clear APPEARAPPEARS Use seems He always appears on the scene but never seems to know what to do As A conjunction used in reference to a comparison always associated with a verb eg Pocket mice carry seeds in their cheekpouches as NOT like do kangaroo rats Do not use in place of that or whether Compare with like ASSUME An active verb often used with an inanimate subject to produce a ludicrous statement The hypothesis assumes that or The model assumes Hypotheses O 2 D 2006 CARRAWAY SCEENTIFIC WRITING 391 and models cannot assume anything However to test a hypothesis or to use a model certain assumptions often are required The person who tests the hypothesis or uses the model must make the assumptions As WELL AS Use and it means the same AT THE PRESENT TIMEAT THIS POINT IN TIME Use currently or now they mean the same BELOW See comments about above Directions do not change ambiguity BETWEEN Use wh n comparing only 2 items Compare with among BY MEANS OF just by wi l suf ce in most instances CASE Can be ambiguous misleading or ludicrous because of different connotations In the case of Scotch whiskey Often used in padded sentences If absolutely necessary use instance eg in this instance CHARACTERCHARACTERISTIC Character refers to a variable feature eg condition of the tail Characteristic refers to a condition of a character feature or dimension of an organism eg tail absent Also it can refer to a unique and diagnostic condition of a character or feature found in a taxon CHECKED Imprecise word because of the variety of possible meanings Commonly used as a synonym for eXamined or veri d An example woul be The traps were checked Choose the more precise words so that clarity of meaning is maintained CLEARCUTCLEARCUTTING Clear cut may be used as an adjective to mean precise de nite or distinct or as a transitive verb to mean to remove all trees from an area However the wor commonly with the hyphen omitted has become ajargon term among foresters and others to mean clear cutting or even agedforest management Clear cut may be used only as an adjective or verb never as a noun clear cutting is the noun that means the areafrom which all trees were removed COMPARE WITH COMPARE TO To compare with means to examine differences and similar ities to compare to means to represent as similar Usually one compares with and contrasts to COMPRISE Before common misuse comprise meant to contain or include but not to constitute or to compose The distinction seems useful and worth preserving Therefore The whole comprises the parts but the parts do not comprise the w o e DECREASED Do not use in place of lesser Decreased means to diminish as in size amount or strength Lesser is used primarily as an adjective when making a comparison DIFFER FROMDIFFER WITH One thing differs from another although you may differ with your colleagues DIFFERENT FROMDIFFERENT THAN Always use Different from DONE Commonly stated as Research was done in the spring Could mean either the research was completed or conducted in the spring Use the correct term to clarify your intended meanin UE TO Due is an adjective often mistakenly used as a preposition Due to implies causality when only a relationship may be intended Try related to or if causality is intended use because 0 DURING THE COURSE OFl39N THE COURSE OE just during or in will suf ce EITHER ORNEITHER NOR Apply to no more than 2 items or categories EQUALLYAS GOODEQUALLYAS GOOD AS Use equally good ESTROUSESTRUS Estrous is an adjective estrus is a noun Among species that have estrous cycles females are receptive only during estrus FALL This word has several meanings including to descend to hang freely to drop suddenly and involuntarily to ow down sink slump subside to come or occur at a certain time and commonly is used as a synonym for the season of Autumn Always use the word Autumn 392 THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST 1552 for the season occurring between summer and winter to remove any doubt as to intended meanin FARTHERFURTHER Farther is used as an adverb to mean to a greater distance in space or to a more remote place it is used as an adjective to mean more divergent in character or relationship or more remote in time Further is used as an adverb to mean in addition or moreover it is used as an adjective to mean going or extending beyond what exists or as a verb to mean to help forward promote or advance FAST oxes were fasted To fast meaning to starve is an intransitive verb You may fast but you cannot fast another organism you starve it FELT It was felt that One feels cloth but believes ideas FORMERLAT39IER These words refer only to the rst and second of only 2 items or categories GIVEN Commonly stated as At a given time This word has several meanings including xed speci c or speci ed Use the more precise term HIGH ER LOWER These words are used far too often Commonly used imprecisely or ambiguously for greater lesser larger smaller more or fewer Some times gobbledygook is produced such as Occurrences of higher concentrations were lower at higher levels of ef uent outflow I have no idea what the authors actu ally meant rNCIDENCEPREVALENCE Incidence means the number detected or reported per unit of time revalence means the number orproportion per sample The prevalence of rabies in skunks in 1961 was 23 per 1000 examined or The reported incidence of rabies in skunks in northeastern Illinois averaged 23 per year INCREASED Increased means an addition or enlargement as in size quality extent number intensity value or substance Do not use in place of greater Greater means to be large in spatial dimension or remarkable in intensity magnitude power or effectiveness IN ORDER THAT Overly wordy use to INTERESTINGINTERESTING TO NOTE Let the reader decided what is interesting What is interesting to you may not be to the reader l39N VIEW or THE FACT THAT Overly wordy use because IRREGARDLEss Actually this word does not exist Use regardless or irrespective LAYLIE Lay laid laid laying is a transitive verb that requires an object to complete its meaning It means to put or set down to produce and deposit or to dispose over or along a surface Researchers lay traps on the ground or Traps were laid on the ground Lie lay lain lyin is an intransitive verb that does not take an object It means to be or stay in a horizontal position to have direction or to occupy a certain place or position The neonates lie in their nest or Traps were lying on the ground LEssERFEWER Less refers to quantity few refers to number He drank less beer today so there were fewer empt cans LIKE A reposition always associated with an object nouns pronouns or noun phrases Used correctly when it replaces t e phrases similar to or similarily to Grasshopper mice howl li e NOT as coyotes Compare with as LIVETRAPLIVE TRAP Livetrap 1 word is a verb whereas live trap 2 words is a noun Therefore animals are livetrapped in live traps Hyphenate live trap only when used as a noun modi er as in live trap grid MAJORITYVAST MAJORITY Majority means more than half Vast suggests immensity of extent Usually most will be more precise MASSWEIGHT These 2 words often are confused Bodies have mass whereas forces are measured in units of weight Thus The average mass of adult Microtus oregoni from the Coast Range is 191 g or The pregnant Peromyscus weigh 6 g more than the heaviest 2006 CARRAWAY SCEENTIEIC WRITING 393 nulliparous specimen That is the pregnant one exerted a force greater than the heaviest nulliparous one equivalent to the Earth s pull on a 6 g mass MOISTER Better to use more moist more mesic or wetter NON A pre x usually not hyphenated Avoid overuse Do not use non to substitute for established negative pre xes or where not will serve Use i or not co rect ever noncorrect Similarly use unrelia e or not re iable uninfected or infected and not signi cantly different NOT INCORRECT NOT CONSISTENT WITHNOT UNCOMMON Double negatives become incompre hensible Use correct consistent with or common to express positive concepts of correctness consistency or commonness ONCIEWHENAFIER Avoid use of once to mean when or after as once can mean one time formerly simultaneously or immediately When or After NOT once the mouse located the cache it began to ll its cheek pouches OUTIN 14 out of 17 14 in 17 or to nd out if In most instances out or in can be omitted without altering the meaning Use 14 of 17 to nd or to determine PARAMETER A perfectly good word that means an arbitrary constant each of which values characterizes a member of a system or a characteristic element or constant factor However the wor is misused in so many ways that it might be better to avoid its use Try characteristic dimension or distance PARTIALLYPARRY Partially implies bias infavor ofone or the other Partly is the more precise term when the concept of proportion or portion is meant PERCENTPERCENTAGE Use the percent sign with numerals use percentage in reference to proportion of the whole expressed in hundredths Compare with proportion PREDOMINATEPREDOMINANT Predominate is a verb predominant an adjective The adverb is predominantly not predominately PRIOR TO PREVIOUS TOSUBSEQUENT To Previous and prior are adjectives that modify no ere are prior and revious events that occur before somethi else Likewise there are subsequent events that occur after something else However events do not occur prior to previous to or subsequent to something else Use before proceeding or after as usage requires PROBLEM Indicates a question open to inquiry or a proposition stating something to be done Often misused The potassium problem in deer caused Instead try Inadequate potas sium in deer caused or Failure to meet potassium requirements in deer caused PROPORTION Use in the sense of part eg the relation ofone part to another or to the whole with respect to magnitude quantity or degree Compare with percent PROV39EN Proven is an adjective but proved is the past participle Be careful of this word rarely is anything proven in science Hypotheses are tested and sometimes rejected but this is not proof PROVIDEDPROVIDING Provided usually followed by that is the conjunction Providing is the particip e REASONWHY Omit why The reason is the why SAID Often used incorrectly as ones 1950 said use wrote suggested reported or recorded SCAT Commonly used as a synonym for fecal dropping Consider substituting feces fecal droppings fecal passage fecal pellets or excrement for greater clarity Scat is imprecise because of numerous other meanings a tax a shower ofrain to scatter to smash to beat to go away quickly to move rapidly to sing with meaningless syllables and is the vernacular name of the argus sh or Nothing was said Instead 394 THE AMERICAN MIDLAND NATURALIST 1552 SMALL l39N SIZERECTANGULAR l39N SHAPEGREEN l39N COLORTENUOUS l39N NATURE Something is a size shape or color the added words are superfluous Use small rectangular green or tenuous THATWHICH These are 2 words that can help when needed to make intended meanings and relationships unmistakable which often is of prime importance in science writing If t e clause can e omitted without leaving the modi ed noun incomplete use which and enclose the clause with commas or parentheses otherwise use that THISTHESE These pronouns among others commonly are used to begin sentences when the antecedants to which they refer are unclear Elephants whales and bats are mammals although bats fly like birds These animals are endothermic It is unclear whether just the mammals are endothermic just the birds or both the birds and mammals Make sure the antecedants of these pronouns are clear TO SEE More research is needed to see if foxes kill cats To see means to perceive by the eye Substitute to determine to ascertain or to detect TRAPPED Trapped means to capture in traps Therefore study areas were trapped produces a ludicrous assertion Use Traps were set for 3 nights on 4 study areas UTILIZATIONUTILIZE Use will suf ce VARYQUITESOMEWHATCONSIDERABLE Avoid use of modi ers that impart inde nite measure For example A very large bear does not provide an indication of how large or provide a scale for judging the relative size of the bear Either write A large bear or better A 3 m tall bear VARYINGVARIOUSDIFFERINGDEFFERENT Commonly misused as synonyms Varying amounts or differing conditions imply individually changing amounts or conditions rather than a selection of various amounts or different conditions WHERE Implies a locality position or direction Do not use for in which or for which Direct relationships in which NOT where muskrats and minks WHICH ISTHAT WEREWHO ARE Usually superfluous The data that were related to age were analyzed rst Omit that were it does not change the meaning The site which is located near Corva is mit which is for the same reason WHILEWHEREAS While implies simultaneity Often misused for although or whereas Examples are Dipodomys merriami has 4 toes on each hind foot whereas NOT w ile D ordii has 5 or Although NOTwhile deer sometimes chase coyotes rabbits never do WHOWHOM Who is used with a relative clause thus it serves to ask for speci cation When you write about animals it is not who it is which The coyote which NOT who caught the rabbit also chased a skunk Researchers who discovered the structure ofDNA received the Nobel Prize Whom is used with direct objects Whom can I trust Researchers who are ethical