Overkilling it to death

I’ve never been the kind of person who swoons over accents (except for Fitz Simmons, but that’s more the whole package) or paid attention to royalty. However I’ve discovered a strange prejudice. I expect British scientists, as a whole, to write better than American scientists. However, my last two papers written by Brits prove me wrong. I went so far to check whether that and which have different usage rules in British English than in American English for my last paper. They don’t.

(For those who care: “that” is used when it is essential for understanding the clause. For example, This is the dog that we’re giving to my sister in law, our own dog is asleep under the table. You need “that” to understand which dog I’m talking about. Which is used when it is a throwaway clause and always has a comma before it, unless you’re using it the way I did in the previous sentence. Don’t you love English? The book, which has an ugly cover in my opinion, is on the table.)

My current paper has the phrase “and hence, subsequently, the model shows that purple daisies do not summon fairies.” Maybe I made up the last part, but hence, subsequently? Please.

Or this one: “The numerical model representing the supercooled immunosuppressed green fluorescent protein (GFP) actually systematically underestimates the actual verdant nature of the GFP.” (Note, I did NOT make up the GFP, although I did use it in a nonstandard manner.)

What are your dumb prejudices?

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14 responses to “Overkilling it to death

  1. I refuse to buy best sellers off the front table at Barnes & Noble. Won’t allow (not-punished-enough) sports criminals like Michael Vick and Ben Rothlisberger and Bill Bellichick on my TV.

    This list could be really really long…

    • Yes. See above. “That” is restrictive, which means that the meaning of the sentence is lost without whatever comes after “that.” There is no comma before that. “Which” is nonrestrictive, which means it’s just commentary. Commas before “which” unless you’re saying something like “Which book shall I ignore? The one that has “wife” in the title or the one that has “daughter” in the title?”

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