Tips for More Effective Technical Writing

Tip #3 PLURAL NOUNS, PLURAL FORMS

Basic Guidelines
Nouns and verbs must agree in number; that is, plural nouns require a plural form of the verb (The tests are …), and singular nouns require a singular form of the verb (The test is …).

Use plural forms more to stress "all" the members of the group. This usually has more impact that singling out only one (each, every) representative of a group. Check whether a noun is a "countable noun" (数えられる名詞) or a "noncountable noun" (数えられない名詞). Some nouns can be used either way, but avoid mixed usage.

1. ORIGINAL
Finally, a conclusion is given in Section 5.
1. REVISED
Finally, conclusions are given in Section 5.

COMMENTS
It is hard to imagine "only one" conclusion! Be careful to use plural noun forms to indicate the plurality (more-than-1 concept).

2. ORIGINAL
Therefore, examining management history from the past to present with relation to vegetation change is essential for considering future management strategy for their conservation.
2. REVISED
Therefore, examining management history from the past to present with relation to vegetation change is essential for considering future management strategies for their conservation.

COMMENTS
It is hard to imagine "only one" strategy! Be careful to use plural noun forms to indicate the plurality (more-than-1 concept).

In this sentence the subject is "examining" and such "-ing" noun forms (gerunds 動名詞) are treated as singular in nature; thus, "examiningis essential…".


3. ORIGINAL
many project and application are …
3. REVISED
many projects and applications are …

COMMENTS
"many" is more than 1 and represents the concept of quantity, specifically number. Do NOT use a singular countable noun such as "project" or "application" when the concept is more than one, or with non-countable noun forms such as "research" (× "many research").

"much" represents the concept of quantity, specifically amount. Do NOT use a countable noun with much. Use non-countable noun forms such as "much research".

4. ORIGINAL
In the future these technique will be applied various other areas
4. REVISED
In the future these techniques will be applied various other areas

COMMENTS
"these/those" are words that mean "more than 1" and represent the concept of quantity, specifically number. "this/that" are used for singular countable noun such as "this project" or "that project" when the concept is singular in nature, or with a non-countable noun forms such as "this research" or "that information".


5. ORIGINAL
Battery, electrical appliances, fluorescent lights, accumulator, transformer, and all other hazardous waste are dumped without neutralization.
5. REVISED
Batteries, electrical appliances, fluorescent lights, accumulators, transformers, and all other hazardous waste are dumped without neutralization.

COMMENTS
Be consistent and use all plural forms (or all singular forms) in a series of examples of countable nouns

In this example, "hazardous waste" is treated as a non-countable noun in its concept; thus, "hazardous wastes" is incorrect.


6. ORIGINAL
However, recent researches show that 2-dimensional MHD equilibria are not competent because the artificial containers are not really axisymmetric.
6. REVISED
However, recent research shows that 2-dimensional MHD equilibria are not competent because the artificial containers are not really axisymmetric.

COMMENTS
Avoid a countable noun form when the noun is NOT countable in its context or meaning. In this example "research" is treated as a single concept; that is, as a non-count noun with no commonly-used plural form.

★ Words like advice, equipment, information, knowledge, progress, research, satisfaction, scenery, vocabulary, work, and some other non-countable nouns are NOT used in plural forms except in unusual situations.
Incorrect Use
advices are
equipments are
informations are
researches are
works are
Correct Use
advice is
equipment is
information is
research is
work is

7. ORIGINAL
Sustainable tourism aims at promoting a continuous tourist activity that raises awareness of the cultural and natural uniqueness of a certain destination, while resulting in minimal impacts.
7. REVISED
Sustainable tourism aims at promoting continuous tourist activities that raise awareness of the cultural and natural uniqueness of a certain destination, while resulting in minimal impacts.

COMMENTS
The English in the original sentence is used properly: singular countable noun form ("activity") with a singular verb form ("raises"). However, the concept naturally implies that "more than one activity" exists; thus, plural form is better.


Many singular count nouns are made into plural forms by adding an "–s", though some spelling
anomalies exist:

  1. add –s schools, books, pens, … (alloy/alloys use –s when -y is preceded by a vowel)
  2. –y → ies city/cities, army/armies (-y is preceded by a consonant)
  3. –f/-fe→ -v(e)s half/halves, life/lives
  4. special man/men, foot/feet, sheep/sheep, child/children, ox/oxen

Some count nouns, though, still use older plural forms from the original Latin or Greek languages that follow different patterns:

Older Plural Forms
-um -a
addendum addenda
agendum agenda
bacterium bacteria
curriculum curricula
datum data
desideratum desiderata
erratum errata
folium folia
medium media
memorandum memoranda
ovum ova
septum septa
serum sera
spectrum spectra
stratum strata
symposium symposia
-is -es
analysis analyses
axis axes
basis bases
crisis crises
diagnosis diagnoses
ellipsis ellipses
hypothesis hypotheses
neurosis neuroses
parenthesis parentheses
psychosis psychoses
synthesis syntheses
thesis theses
-a -ae
alga algae
antenna antennae
brucella brucellae
formula formulae
larva larvae
minutia minutiae
nebula nebulae
oasis oases
vertebra vertebrae
-us "-i" + special
bacillus bacilli
cactus cacti
fungus fungi
genus genera
locus loci
nucleus nuclei
radius radii
stimulus stimuli
terminus termini
-ex/-ix -ices
appendix appendixes/appendices
cicatrix cicatrices
index indexes/indices
matrix matrices
vortex vortices
-on -a
criterion criteria
mitochondrion mitochondria
phenomenon phenomena
protozoon protozoa
-ma -mata
neuroma neuromata
stemma stemmata
stigma stigmata
-en -ina
foramen foramina/foramens
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