Writing Glitch #387

Today’s glitch:

Don’t capitalize neutron; it’s a common noun (used here as an adjective), not a proper one.

Either spell out the whole number or use only numerals. (For academic stuff, numerals are preferred, but writing about science in a non-academic context should be treated as other normal prose.) Write one thousand trillion or write 1,000,000,000,000. (If you really want to do science writing the right way, write the number in scientific notation — which I can’t do here because WordPress doesn’t want me to use exponents — as one times ten to the twelfth power.) That long string of zeroes does look impressive and makes a point to people who would otherwise have no clue just how big one thousand trillion is, but using the numeral also runs the risk of scaring away math-phobes. (“I majored in English — you do the math.” *rolls eyes* Please don’t make me go on yet another bloggish tirade about the stupid-headed wrongness of believing only people who don’t know grammar from their own ass are capable of understanding mathematics and numbers in general.)

Change your (possessive pronoun: belongs to you) to you’re (contraction of you are).

Magnetars are a special form of neutron star. Their magnetic fields are an unbelievable one thousand trillion times stronger than the magnetic field you’re sitting in now.



About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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2 Responses to Writing Glitch #387

  1. curioushart says:

    I never heard that one before–that only people who don’t know grammar are capable of understanding mathematics. The usual response I get when people find out I’m a math teacher is the sign against evil; it makes me feel like a druid in a Mary Stewart novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s part of the “right brain/left brain” idea, which was disproven years and years ago, but it’s still a popular concept that gets repeated as if it were true. When I was at university, working toward a degree in education, our professors told us that our own students would be good at writing and grammar and understanding literature, OR they’d be good at mathematics and science, but none of them would be both. (I got in a lot of trouble, once or twice, for politely disagreeing with this notion. After all, just because I’M good at both grammar and science doesn’t mean it’s possible for a person to be good at both grammar and science, right? *shakes head*)


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