chemistry, writing

Common mistakes in science writing (and their solutions)

This is a very basic list, but the aim is to help prevent those small errors that are easy to make and a pain to fix (usually because there are many of them).

  • Negative numbers
    Use the negative symbol or an ‘en dash’ but not a hyphen.
  • Degrees Celsius
    Use the degree symbol from the ‘Symbol’ font, followed by a capital letter C in the typeface you are using. For example, °C. Do not use a superscripted o or 0.
  • Units and their quantities
    Make sure there is a space between the number and the unit, e.g., 3 g, 4 kj/mol, and 6 h, but 57%.
  • Consistency with units
    The symbol for liter is L; for milliliter, it is ml or mL. Make sure that you are consistent and do not mix up ml and mL.
  • a and an
    If the following word begins with a vowel or vowel sound (read it out loud), use ‘an’; if it begins with a consonant, use ‘a’.
  • Number ranges
    Separate ranges of numbers with an en dash, for example, in a list of references: 4–11 or 4,7,11–19. Remember, do not use a dash-separator if only two numbers are consecutive.

You can download a PDF of this file, here: Common mistakes


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