Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 5 – Numbers (3)
This is the third and final post on numbers (see below for links to the previous two posts).
Whether to write numbers as figures or words, put abbreviations before or after them, or leave spaces between symbols preceding or following them is all far more complicated than we might at first imagine.
It’s also easy to get confused as style-guide rules and recommendations can differ and many non-native speakers writing or translating into English simply copy usage in their own language, which is often not correct. As a translator and editor, I’ve written these posts on numbers to highlight errors I’ve come across in my work and also to clear my own confusion between source usage and UK and US English preferences.
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 4 – Numbers (2)
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication is a series within the Bite-sized Tips series.
In the first and second instalments, I presented some common errors I find in the academic papers I revise or edit. Although they are generally made by non-native speakers of English in the texts I see, a lot of them can trip us up as well, especially as there are often differences between US and UK usage and everything can become quite muddled.
In the third instalment I looked at some issues with numbers. As it’s a vast, complicated area and lots of mistakes crop up, I’ve divided the focus on numbers into three parts. This is the second of those parts on dates and currencies.
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 3 – Numbers (1)
I spend a lot of my work time improving academic texts. This can involve revising the translations that authors have produced of their own work or editing their non-native efforts at writing directly into English. Unfortunately, the results are never error-free and, as I mostly revise and edit articles and papers written by Spanish speakers, I repeatedly come across the same mistakes.
In the first instalment of this series within a series, I highlighted ten of these common mistakes including the use of etc. and et al.
In the second, I focused on whether to use data is or data are, some punctuation problems and issues with capitalisation.
A recent tourism editing job had me scouring through many translated websites of hotels (Spanish to English, my pair) and I was appalled to see the same mistakes made again and again.
Of course, this might be because the company used machine translation (MT) or non-native speakers for the job. Because a lot of people think tourism texts are so simple that MT will be good enough.
Unfortunately, that’s why many in the sector refuse to allocate a high enough budget to translating their marketing material. The less they are willing to spend, the more likely their translated text will fail.
During my translation work I often come across words that the author has put in italics, quotations marks, or in italics within quotation marks. And often the way they use them throughout the text is inconsistent.
As translators, we have to take a step back from the usage in the original document and remember the rules of our own brand of English. Mirroring the source is not an option. And we also have to smooth out all the inconsistencies.
Whether you put words, terms, titles, etc., into italics, quotations or in roman type will depend on the style manual you have been told to follow. And if you haven’t been given any specific instructions, it’ll depend on whether you use a British, American, Canadian, Australian, etc., guide for your work. You’ll find a long list of style guides (over 40) on the Writing-related Resources page.
I expect some people will see my latest bite-sized tips post and wonder what it’s all about and why I bother with these lists of spellings and occasional forays into a bit of grammar based on the New Oxford Style Manual. If you’re one of them, then wonder no more because I’m going to reveal my main reasons below.
This is a stylistic minefield and the most important aspect to remember is to be consistent throughout your document and in all the documents for a particular client. If you are ever asked to use a specific style guide, then this is an area you’ll definitely need to look up because there are so many variations. This post is going to focus on the recommendations in the New Oxford Style Manual and compare them with those found in The Chicago Manual of Style, so essentially the difference between UK and US usage.
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 2 – Data is or Data are?
This second instalment of common mistakes I encounter when revising and editing texts that have been written by non-native speakers of English kicks off with “data”. Should it be followed by a singular or a plural verb? I’ll base my response to this on the New Oxford Style Manual, as this is the style guide I use for my work, but I’ll also check The Chicago Manual of Style to see if it differs.
The services I offer include editing papers for publication. As most of these have been written directly into English by Spanish university researchers, more often than not they contain a number of errors. In this first of what I hope will be many blog posts on the subject, I have highlighted ten mistakes which crop up again and again. I base my work on the New Oxford Style Manual, but I have also indicated the preference of The Chicago Manual of Style where this differs.