Papercheck Style

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Pluralizing abbreviations: (such as Mr.), acronyms (such as NATO), and initialisms (such as GI) (Note: abbreviations must be followed by periods, except for Miss; acronyms are pronounced as if they are words, and are not followed by periods; initialisms are pronounced by reading off the letters of which they are composed, and may be followed by periods, although they generally are not): In most cases, it is not necessary to pluralize these word forms with the use of apostrophes. For example, “Thousands of GIs will be returning home soon” is preferable to “GI’s.”

The use of apostrophes in numbers: Editors should write the 1920s, rather than the 1920’s. “There were five 88s” is preferable to “five 88’s.” (By the way, an 88 is a World War I artillery piece.)

Pronouns to be used in reference to single individuals: The following is incorrect: “Some children have to deal with terrible problems, such as having an abusive parent.” That sentence implies that the problems (plural) that some children (plural) face involve dealing with an abusive parent (singular). Of course, it does not mean this, but it sounds as if the children in question all have the same abusive parent. The correct way of writing the sentence is “Some children have to deal with terrible problems, one of which is having an abusive parent.”

People are referred to as who, not that, as in “I know several people who disagree with the decision.”

Pronouns to use in reference to institutions: Since an institution (a school, a government, a corporation) is an entity, it should be referred to by the use of singular pronouns, such as it or its, and not their, as in “General Motors is hoping to sell more of its vehicles overseas.”

Pronouns to use when editing research papers: The third person should be used. The following is not correct: “We need to encourage scientists to conduct more stem cell research.” It should be “Scientists should be encouraged to conduct more stem cell research.”

Capitalization: Do not capitalize common nouns, even when they designate important-sounding positions, such as account executive or general, unless they precede a name, such as General Patton. This often occurs in reference to university. That word should not be capitalized unless it is part of a name. The following uses are correct: “I think that Columbia University is the best institution in the city.” “He has a university education.”

Agreed-upon spellings and usages: Web site, not Website or website; Internet', not internet. The following are both acceptable: email and e-mail.

Colons are used only before lists or when a writer is indicating that a quoted passage follows. They do not belong in the body of a sentence, as in the following: “The key topics to be discussed include: a comparison of the determinants of health and the health…”

The use of tense when referring to published works: When a writer refers to characters or actions in a work of fiction, as in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is appropriate to use the present tense, as in “Huck decides to run away from home.” When referring to published findings, it is also appropriate to use the present tense, as in “The findings indicate that more women than men attempt to stay fit.”

Whether or if: Whether should be substituted for if when it is indicating a choice, as in “He did not know whether she would arrive on time.”

Less or fewer; number or amount: Use less when referring to things which cannot be counted, such as less water. Use fewer when referring to objects which can be counted, such as fewer buckets of water. It is always fewer people; it is never less people.

Amount and number: Similarly, amount refers to things which cannot be counted: a small amount of pollution. Use number when referring to that which can be counted, as in a large number of voters. It is never correct to say or write a small amount of people.

In most instances, in academic papers, contractions should be converted to full words: About the only exceptions to this rule would involve instances in which contractions are in dialogue or in colloquial phrases or when using full words causes the sentence to appear to be distorted.