Lesson 10

(1)図1は“Figure 1”と書くべき?それとも“Fig. 1”とすべき?使い分けるためのヒント

(2)引用符(quotation mark)を使うときの注意。

(3)あなたは“data of”と“data on”の意味の違いをご存知ですか?

Lesson 10の解答

Dear Participants,

I hope you’re enjoying the cooler autumn weather after a long, hot summer. In this issue, we begin by looking at styles used when referring to figures, then examine quotation marks, which are often overused by Japanese researchers when writing in English (for a very understandable reason). Finally, we look at the difference between data of and data on, which seem to be very similar expressions but are actually totally different in meaning.

(1) Figure 1 or Fig. 1? Hints on styles when referring to figures

In addition to the general rule that a numeral should not be used at the beginning of a sentence, as described in the Spring 2012 issue, it is also considered inappropriate to begin a sentence with an abbreviation. Therefore, you should write “Figure 1 shows. . . ,” not “Fig. 1 shows. . . ,” if the expression appears at the beginning of a sentence.

The question then arises: Other than at the beginning of a sentence, which is better, “Fig. 1” or “Figure 1”? Either style is fine, and you can use whichever one you prefer, but it is always a good idea to check which style seems to be preferred in the publication to which your paper will be submitted. The most important point is that the style must be consistent throughout the text and figure captions. For example, if you use the abbreviated (“Fig. 1”) style, it should be used throughout your paper except at the beginning of a sentence.

Equations are generally referred to in the abbreviated style; e.g., “Eq. (1),” except at the beginning of a sentence when the full form, “Equation (1),” should be used.

Please note that there is always a space between “Fig.” or “Figure” and the numeral; e.g., “Fig. 1” or “Figure 1” (not “Fig.1” or “Figure1”). This very common mistake in papers written by Japanese researchers reflects the fact that a space is usually not inserted when writing in Japanese.

Now let’s look briefly at how to refer to subfigures within a figure. The most common style used for labeling subfigures themselves within an overall figure is by means of lowercase letters in parentheses: (a), (b), (c), and so on. When referring to such subfigures in the text, the most common style is as follows: Fig. 1(a), Fig. 1(b), etc., or Figure 1(a), Figure 1(b), etc. Note that there is usually no space between the numeral and the opening parenthesis (e.g., “Fig. 1(a),” not “Fig. 1 (a)”). Note also that it is acceptable to have a double set of closing parentheses if an expression such as “Fig. 1(a)” is enclosed in parentheses; e.g., “X then rapidly increases (Fig 1(a)).”

When referring to multiple figures, various styles are possible; e.g.,
Figures 1 to 3; Figures 1?3; Figs. 1 to 3; Figs. 1?3
Figures 2(b) and (c); Figs. 2(b) and (c) (Note the space before “(c).”)
Figures 3(d) to (f); Figures 3(d)?(f); Figs. 3(d) to (f); Figs. 3(d)?(f)

(2) Quotation marks: Not used so often in English

In Japanese texts, kakko 「 」 are often used to define or emphasize a name or key term that is mentioned for the first time in a text. In English, however, we rarely use quotation marks in this way. Rather, we use some short descriptive expression if appropriate, such as “the so-called particle-tracking method” or “a method that we refer to as the particle-tracking method” (without quotation marks; I have used quotation marks in these cases only to indicate to you that I am mentioning the expression concerned).

If such an expression is enclosed in quotation marks, it will usually indicate that there is something unusual or unique about the expression concerned. Here is an example:
“. . . using the “flying saucer method,” in which a saucer is submerged in the water layer and made to “fly” in the current. . . .”
Here, the expressions flying saucer method and fly are quite unusual and unexpected in a scientific paper, so they are enclosed in quotation marks the first time they appear in the text.

Here is another example, from the field of sociology:
“The number of hikikomori, or “shut-ins” who withdraw from society. . . .”
In this case, “shut-ins” is a somewhat unusual term, so it is preferable to enclose it in quotation marks the first time it is mentioned in the text.

To summarize, take care not to use quotation marks in English texts simply because the expression concerned would be enclosed in kakko in the equivalent Japanese text. Apart from their regular functions of indicating direct speech, quoted matter, and expressions being referred to, quotation marks are actually used quite sparingly in English.

(3) Data of vs. data on: A case of totally different meanings

There is a clear difference between the expressions data of and data on; that is, we usually use of to indicate the owner of the data, and on to indicate the subject of the data. For example, if we say “data of the Goshawk Protection Fund,” we are referring to the data possessed by the Goshawk Protection Fund (e.g., the results of various goshawk-related studies, details of other goshawk protection organizations around the world, etc.). On the other hand, if we say “data on the Goshawk Protection Fund,” we are referring to data concerning the Goshawk Protection Fund itself (e.g., date of establishment, number of members, sources of funding, etc.).

The same applies to the word information. If we say “information of X,” this means “information belonging an organization called X.” If we say “information on X,” this means “information concerning X itself.”

I hope that the above hints are helpful to you in your scientific writing.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Gavey
For World Translation Services, Inc.