5. Nouns, articles, and adjectives

5.1 Nouns that are either singular or plural depending on their context in the sentence

Number, none: When referring to many individual things, use the plural verb: “A number of stars were found in our last observing run.” Here “number of” means “many”, which you can also use. If instead you are referring to the number itself, use the singular: “The number of stars exceeds several thousand.”

“None of the parameters are constant.” insists that not any out of many are constant, whereas using a singular verb emphasizes that not a single one of them is constant, but implies nothing about how many are being considered.

Majority, minority, variety, fraction: As for “number”, if you use these words to mean a group of individuals, stars, etc., use the plural verb. A majority implies a number of things over 50 % (so make certain you do not just mean “many” there) and a “minority” to less than 50 %. (Do you mean “a few”?) In standard English, “fraction” implies a small number that is considerably less than 50 %. “Fraction”, as well as “variety”, also takes a plural verb, although there is no dependence on how many. The LEs will change those uses outside strictly mathematical contexts to “portion”, “number”, “percentage”, etc.

Example: “The majority of scientists hope the agency will increase the number of grants.”

“A wide variety of line profiles were found in the observing run.”

But “The overwhelming majority still votes for amnesty.”

Statistics, systematics: These words are usually plural when they refer to a set of measurements: “The statistics for our sample are found in Table 1.”

If you want to make it singular in this meaning, then use “set of statistics”. The word “statistic” is for a single one of these measurements, while the study of statistics is also singular, as for “physics” and “mathematics”: “Statistics was his specialization at university.”

In contrast, “dynamics” uses a singular verb, whether referring to the study of dynamics or the properties and forces themselves.

Data: This is the plural of “datum”, so A&A considers it a plural noun, as in “The data are ...”. Use “a data point” or “a data set” to be more specific.

Citations: In references to papers, the grammatical number of the author’s name(s) can be unclear if the full reference is abbreviated [“M2015 discuss” or “M2015 discusses”?]. The verb should be singular or plural according to the number of authors [Maeder and Meynet (2000) show that…; Meynet (2010) shows that…]. The ambiguity can be avoided by referring to the paper itself: “As seen in M2015...”

Other questions about plurals.

Usage that we often need to change includes structures with “one of the X…” and a plural noun used as an adjective (see Sect. 2.2.3), along with the following:

-- The noun following “One of the” must be plural: “One of the best astronomers in the world”.

-- When a plural noun is used as an adjective, the plural S is dropped to fit its new function (“galaxy cluster” for “a cluster of galaxies”), with a few exceptions (“least squares method”). Other exceptions are Latin plural nouns (“data bank”) and nouns that have no singular form: “a physics book”, “a sports car”, “newspaper”. See Sect. 2.2.2 for hyphenation of these compounds used as adjectives.

  • “elements enrichment”
  • “element enrichment”

5.2 Capitalization and abbreviation

5.2.1 Headings

A&A only capitalizes the first word of the title, section headings, and table and figure titles with the exception of accepted proper names (e.g., names of people, copyrighted names, and specific instruments). Abbreviations are to be avoided, unless they are very common ones, such as cardinal directions (NE), some star names, or chemical elements; when possible, please write them out in any heading.

In the subtitle to a title or a section heading, capitalize the first word (regardless of how it is punctuated).

Example “Star formation in Andromeda: A review” or “Star formation. A review”

5.2.2 Location indicators in a paper

The following expressions should always be abbreviated, unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence, and capitalized: Sect. 2, Sects. 2 and 3; Fig. 1, Figs. 1-4; Eq. 1, Eqs. 1 and 2; Col. 1, Cols. 1-3.

“Table” is never abbreviated, although it is capitalized when followed by its designated number. In addition, when any of these words are not followed by a number or letter indication, then they are treated as normal nouns that are not capitalized: “This argument can be found in the next section, where Eqs. 5 and 6 are discussed”.

5.2.3 Names

  • Use capital letters (upper case) for adjectives and verbs formed from proper names:

    Poissonian, Newtonian, or Comptonized.

  • Many SI units are now lower case:

    “gauss”, “kelvin”, or “newton”, but “Celsius”.

  • Use capitals for proper and generic names that are traditionally used for a single, special object:

    Local Group, Magellanic Clouds.

  • Use for unique instrument names and observatories.
  • Use for copyrighted material (not just the name of a method or code).
  • Use the lower case for generic names and terms, such as spectral energy distribution or active galactic nucleus, even when introducing the acronym (see below).
  • Use lower case for full names of chemical elements and cardinal directions:

    lithium, southeast.

5.2.4 Acronyms

Use the lower case for terms when introducing acronyms. All acronyms need to be introduced for all abbreviations except for units of measurement and the cardinal directions (N, SE, etc.). The acronyms of names of instruments or telescopes can also be introduced when appropriate. If an abbreviation is introduced in the abstract, the introduction must be repeated in the main text.

The words in the name or term are not capitalized unless it is either (i) a word that is a proper name, as described above, or (ii) an acronym that is formed from other than the first letters:

Examples star formation (SF), Atlantic Ocean (AO), the Galactic center (GC),

HIgh-Precision PARallax COllecting Satellite (HIPPARCOS)

5.3 Complex noun phrases

A complex noun phrase has several modifying additions to either the subject or the object of a sentence. [http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/phrases.htm#noun]

5.3.1 Problems with length

Avoid overly long noun phrases for the subject, since they tend to distance the main noun from the main verb, so that a reader may lose the thread of the idea once the main verb turns up. This can happen when related information is added to clarify something in the noun phrase, often not even the main noun itself (see last example).

  • Several detections involving hot-Jupiter exoplanets have been reported.
  • Several detections have been reported that involve hot-Jupiter exoplanets.
  • Several detections of hot-Jupiter exoplanets have been reported.
  • The addition of a magnetoacoustic sausage plus a kink wave, either magnetoacoustic or Alfven, with slightly different frequencies, gives it all the required properties.
  • The required properties are obtained by adding a magnetoacoustic sausage plus a kink wave with slightly different frequencies. The kink wave can be either a magnetoacoustic or an Alfvén wave.

5.3.2 Verbal nouns

A noun phrase formed with a verbal form (infinitive or gerund) can work in a sentence, making the action itself the subject or object in many ways, most of which pose no problem in MSs (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbal_noun):

“Studying stars is our business” or “Our business is to study stars”.

This phrasing is handy for avoiding the wordy “The study of stars is our business.”

5.3.3 Noun phrases with “that”

A useful noun phrase begins with “that” and includes at least a subject and verb: “That planet-hosting stars are so very far away has made it hard to detect them.”

Many authors add “The fact” to introduce this structure, but it is not needed and feels contradictory, as in

  • “…reflects the fact that such objects can be observed within...” (not a true fact)
  • “…reflects the possibility that these objects are observed within...” or
  • “…reflects that these objects can be observed within...”

5.3.4 Articles

As for other sections, this guide cannot explain all the rules and variations for this category, but for authors who find they are often corrected for articles (a, an, the, etc.) and determiners (those, these, such), as well as for the difference between count and noncount nouns, please see:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/determiners/determiners.htm or

5.3.5 Adjectives

Adjectives occasionally pose a problem in A&A papers, but it does show up in the captions, as seen in the examples below. Please see https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/adjectives/order-adjectives and consider the so-called royal order of adjectives at

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adjectives.htm: determiner (e.g., article) - observation (opinion) - size - shape - age - color - origin (e.g., nationality) - material - qualifier - noun

Example either “indicated by a dashed red line” or “red dashed line”, but be consistent. (It is not clear whether “dashed” is the shape or the material in the “royal order”, but the line is both red and dashed.)

“red and gray shaded areas” (There are two or more areas that are red and gray.) or “red- and gray-shaded areas” (The shading is both red and gray.)