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General Mistakes

This page lists some general mistakes.

Singular and plural nouns

I often see sentences like the one below.

Example 1. Unclear count

A module were used to …​

As a proofreader, I need to guess whether the author’s intended meaning is

  • "A module was used to …​" or

  • "Modules were used to …​"

I can sometimes guess from context.

You might think that this is one correction and I should just leave a comment and move on.

This is true for some cases. I can write:

It’s not clear what is meant here. Do you mean "A module was" or "Modules were"?

However, the rest of the paragraph usually references "module" or "modules", so it’s not just one correction. Other corrections depend on it. The comment would then need to be:

It’s not clear what is meant here. Do you mean "A module was" or "Modules were"? If it’s "A module was", then also do X, Y, and Z. If it’s "Modules were", then also do A, B, C.

Now assume that text in other paragraphs depends on this one correction. The comments in these paragraphs would need to be:

If "A module was" was used in the first paragraph on page 5, then use X here. If "Modules were" was used, then use Y here.

This is not practical.

Make sure that the correct form of a noun (singular or plural) is used.

Text formatting

Text formatting (bold, italics) is used to improve clarity.

Example 2. Text formatting

The a lattice constant of the ZnO thin films was estimated …​


Italics is used to indicate a variable.


The polar solvent …​, whereas the non-polar solvent …​


Italics is also used to emphasize words.


In that case, the interface is said to be incoherent …​


Italics is also used to indicate a special meaning of a word.


The vector r is expressed in terms of its coordinates …​


Bold is used to indicate a vector.


Some journals require brackets to follow the order "{[( )]}". Note that { } is rarely used. If you require three levels of brackets, it might be better to rewrite the text to avoid confusion.

Example 3. Bracket order

…​ in the model [as shown in Fig. 1(a)].