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11 scientific spell-/grammar checker failures that you can learn from

Posted in: Trivalent Editing

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You should never completely rely on your spellchecker or grammar checker when writing your scientific manuscript, thesis, or presentation. I’ll talk more about exactly why in my next article, but first let’s have a bit of fun to get you warmed up – this is Bitesize Bio after all.

Over the years, I have lovingly constructed a list of favorite spell/grammar-checker hiccups that I have come across during my editing work. Some are funny – some are very funny – but ALL are the sort of thing you definitely want to avoid in your writing.

Just for Bitesize Bio readers, here is a little peek into my list. Author names have been withheld to protect the embarrassed.

First up, some real (but wrong) word typos:

1. “Medium containing 10% fatal bovine serum”

fatal = FETAL. Bovine serum is not fatal of course, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.

2. “Medium was then replaced twice with flesh DMEM”

flesh = FRESH. Although sometimes you really do need to give a pound of flesh to get your cells to grow.

3. “This treatment strongly degreased the number of cells” 

degreased = DECREASED. But there may well be an application for a treatment that did degrease cells.

4. “An important crass of proteins”

crass = CLASS. But I bet some proteins are very crass, especially the ones that think they’re important.

5. “L. mesenteroides normally grow in neural or acidic conditions” 

neural = NEUTRAL. However, for all we know they might also grow in neural conditions.

6. “Both signals reached their peach in late leptotene/early zygotene”

peach = PEAK. But reaching your peach can be just as important, if that’s what you’re into…

7. “Undernutrition of neighboring oral mucosa is also caused by the rapture of soft tissues after tooth extraction”

rapture = RUPTURE. Soft tissues in rapture…hallelujah!

8. “Features of their primary structure include the pattern of main chain bonds, molecular weight, and brunch structure”

brunch = BRANCH. But I love brunches and think they should always be well structured.

9. “Although the novel missense mutant c.598G>C causes an alteration of an alanine to a praline in the mature peptide”

praline = PROLINE. Although if the author has figured out how to make an alanine into a praline this could solve world hunger. Would the author please contact us?

These are classic incorrect English-usage errors of the type that non-native English speakers should be especially aware of:

9. The basic body plan and organ primordial of the future mouse are established
Future mouse, to the rescue! Even though it’s not correct, I really like this term!

10. The Nobel literate Arvid Carlsson

Literate? I should hope so!

And finally……

11. non-white bloody white blood cell disease 

Is this a cry for help?

Needless to say, it’s important that none of these types of errors make it through to the final version of your scientific manuscript / thesis / presentation. Even though you may not have spotted them, they will leap off the page to the reader, causing you embarrassment and possibly making the reader doubt your scientific credibility – or sanity!

I hope you enjoyed these! In my next article, I’ll delve deeper into how your spell- and grammar checkers can fail you, what you should look out for, and what you can do to avoid the embarrassment of having a praline or “future mouse” in your next manuscript.

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