COMMON ERRORS & HOW TO AVOID THEM

Hugo van den Berg MOAC and Systems Biology Doctoral Training Centres Warwick University 2010

I. COMPOSITION “Grammar don’t matter, do it?” The following is a list of elements of style, grammar and spelling, to which you must pay attention whenever you write something to hand in. You may object that this is unfair: that all that matters is the quality of your scientific insight, knowledge, and achievements, not your grasp of grammar or the elegance of your writing. Indeed, you may be more cynical and suggest that success in science does not even depend primarily on the quality of your work. Still, if you wish your written work to have lasting value and appeal to people in future generations whom you cannot influence by other means, you will have to learn to write with clarity. Moreover, it is easy to grossly overestimate how well you understand a given topic. Attempting to write with clarity is a useful reality check. You may object that language is just a set of conventions. True, and you must adhere to these conventions for the same reasons you observe the Highway Code. Remember that written text is a poor medium, compared to conversation. When speaking to a person, he or she can indicate that you need to explain something in more detail (or, on the contrary, that they know all about it so you can cut to the chase). But when you are writing you lack all these clues, and the elements of style that make up good prose constitute one way of making up for these shortcomings. An asterisk (*) indicates that an incorrect sentence or clause follows. Error codes used when marking students’ work are indicated in bold face. Agreement (Ag) The grammatical number of the verb must be the same as that of the corresponding noun: * The pH of the P-phase and the N-phase were measured. The pH of the P-phase and the N-phase was measured. This is a typical example where the plurality of the intervening clause causes the writer to forget that it is the pH that was measured. Note that statistics, dynamics, genetics, proteomics, genomics are all singular. Data is actually the plural of datum, but is nowadays treated by almost all speakers as a singular mass term (which raises the question of what to call a single data item: a data point? an observation? say datum and you sound like the professor who ordered a martinus). one bacterium one criterion one phenomenon one ganglion two or more bacteria two or more criteria two or more phenomena two or more ganglia

but remember that you should not use contractions in academic writing. many still view singular they as a colloquialism (q. They are kindly requested not to refer to a data projector as a beamer. In each of the following pairs of sentences. men’s clothing is men’s wear. not the maths). moreover. the second sounds like something a Ukrainian gangster might say (the grammar. Apostrophe (Apo) The apostrophe indicates relations of possession: the enzyme’s = of the enzyme the enzymes = more than one enzyme the enzymes’ = of more than one enzyme The rule is no different for acronyms and abbreviations: the RNA’s = of the RNA the RNAs = more than one RNA the RNAs’ = of more than one RNA although some writers feel the plural of an acronym needs an apostrophe. Do not use since where for is correct.. The first of these must be the most common example of non-idiomatic English uttered in seminars. with the exception of timehonoured luminaries (Jesus’ teachings). as in: *The protocol.Bacteria (the plural) might refer to several bacterial cells. The rule is different for its.v. due to Al et al. but in written text it is jarring because it looks too much like an agreement error and. has been in use since ten years. Irregular plural possessives are formed thus: children’s. the Joneses’ new car). the two juxtaposed sentences mean different things: *Analyse about… *A problem about… . or two or several bacterial species. even though retail signage invariably reads *menswear. They should avoid nonidiomatic constructions such as *This is how it looks like. Thus. too. German students should refrain from referring to their mobile phones as handies (or. *We now have the possibility to obtain an asymptotic result.). even worse. The locution they for a singular person looks and sounds much better than he or she or (s)he. Bastardized English (BE) Foreign students should take care to note that not everything they have come to believe is English actually is English. Names ending in -s follow the same rules (Bridget Jones’s Diary. Asians should take care to avoid incorrect locutions with about: * Discuss about… * Mention about… Already and yet require a perfect past tense: *The experiment was done already by Ed et al. but this is best left to native speakers. which like the pronouns theirs and hers is a possessive without an apostrophe. people’s. it’s means it is or it has. Handy’s). the latter being a car manufactured by BMW. Such things can and do change.

considerably. *Using these definitions. like. which is probably not what is meant (although the sentence would be acceptable as part of a wildlife video narration). *When studying spiders. and look so sloppy in writing. jejune. Separation of variables is a technique that often proves useful in practice. *Anaerobic bacteria are ideally suited to this sort of thing. I would like to express my gratitude. fairly. intensely. you will avoid most syntactical errors if you simply avoid writing things you would never say) but remember that written text lacks some of the advantages of interpersonal contact. the trouble is that the third sentence can be read as imputing hope to octopi. utmost. For instance. I am interesting. While hopefully could be defended as an elliptic idiom. the mutant enzyme had a lower Km. Overused filler words (very. If you are tempted to use such a word.I like to express my gratitude. instead of really consider truly. Diplodocus was a giant herbivore. the key equation follows. or. really. or strained when it is too informal: *This leaves the RNA polymerase molecule in a bit of a bind. an expression such as this sort of thing might not be out of place. . quite. *Separation of variables is a very important technique. so last decennium. The ones on the left express distinctly oddball sentiments. Mentally substitute the word damned for very whenever you want to write the latter and decide whether you really do feel that strongly about it. In particular. nice) should be avoided. better yet. written text can look odd. One reason why these words are overused in conversation. Dangling elements (Dang) A dangler is a participle or gerund that is not linked to a corresponding noun: *Considering the affinity. Here. I am interested. the need to eliminate very prompted a more precise and informative rephrasing. *The law of large numbers is da bomb. instead of very consider extremely. nonetheless. Colloquialisms (Coll) Strive to write as you speak (indeed. *Hopefully the octopus makes another attempt to copulate. The first example may well be perfectly acceptable ten years from now. *Having spoken at various conferences. Avoid dropping successfully in sentences reporting even the slightest of accomplishments. try to think of a synonym with a less wide meaning. unless of course you really really mean it (to ban all such words outright would be pedantic. add a phrase that explains the very and renders it superfluous. whereas the second example will be. genuinely. be careful). salticids are not easily mistaken for something else. In a slightly informal expository text. is that each of them can mean many different things. definitely.

Whereas this is not strictly wrong. they should be avoided in view of the comical effect they can have. semi-colon. do not succumb to the feeling that you need to include material merely to showcase your knowledge or understanding (some lecturers do play “gotcha” but if this happens you can console yourself with the knowledge that they are poor teachers. *Genomics includes alternative splicing. Mixed construction (Mix) The construction of the sentence should not change in mid-stream: *Meiosis is when the diploid genome becomes haploid. While danglers could be defended as idiomatic elliptical constructions. or research report is there to get a point across (or a cluster of related points). should be compared to autotrophy (a key component of which is the biochemical pathway of the Calvin cycle). Heterogeneous co-ordination (Het) Nouns that are syntactically co-ordinate should belong to the same category of meaning: *The Calvin cycle is more costly than heterotrophy. The semi-colon is the “dot-comma” and separates statements that are complementary and parallel. which will make you sound like a robot). will seek the safety of the following construction: *In terms of affinity. but not always. use a full stop (unless all your sentences end up being less than 10 words long. The subject of your sentence does not end with a comma. Heterotrophy. When in doubt. Diplodocus. as a mode of existence. salticids. such clunky use of in terms of does not make for attractive prose and is symptomatic of lazy writing. Such errors occur very frequently and can easily be prevented simply by listening to what you have written. even when it is a long subject complement clause: . comma. Above all. assignment write-up. although intriguingly salticids do seem to be keen observers of fellow arachnids). vaguely remembering that -ing forms at the beginning of a sentence are associated with some sort of trouble. Some students. Anything that detracts from this goal should not be there. full stop (Punc) The colon is the “double dot” and is used when the following material elaborates the implications of the initial statement: Substance X is a non-competitive inhibitor: it changes Vmax but not Km. *Multiple signaling pathways control homeostasis. equation. detailed proofs) should be delegated to appendices. and that you will do better when you become one).The -ing forms that start these sentences express an action not possible for the subjects of these sentences (enzyme. Colon. the mutant enzyme had a lower Km. Material that interrupts the flow of the text too much but should be there to serve the needs of some readers (long tables. Green squiggles The built-in grammar checker that puts green squiggles underneath some bits of your prose is usually right. Irrelevant material (Irr) Your essay.

Having a full stop where one should have a semi-colon is usually admissible. In the meaning “be this as it may” (or simply “but”). however much ATP was added. but a semi-colon for a full stop may look pretentious. The comma should not be regarded as a one-stop shop for connecting any old pair of related thoughts: *The mutant ligand is ineffective. read your sentences out loud and pause where you have written commas. play a key role in intramolecular interactions. The last sentence requires either another comma (before with) or that the one that follows examples be left out. *We will explain with the aid of examples. The microarray analysis. however should be flanked by commas or. The word however has two meanings. To develop a feeling where commas should go. but not those that end in the last letter of the unabbreviated word: . it is unable bind the receptor.*Integrative homeostatic dynamics models. Instead. you should rephrase it. have been used more recently. use a full stop or an appropriate co-ordinating conjunction: The mutant ligand is ineffective. Note that you could not use therefore instead of because in this last sentence. You will hear superfluous commas as unnatural pauses. with main verb and predicate. the second experiment showed an unexpected result. it should be followed by a comma: However. Full stops also end abbreviations. the advantages of differential equations. and that two many short sentences following upon one another result in a staccato “machine gun” effect. From this discussion you may get the impression that a full stop is your best bet when in doubt. however. this is not too bad as a general rule of thumb. because it is unable to bind the receptor. A subordinate clause which you would read out in a lower voice should be flanked on both sides by commas: The Van der Waals forces. did not confirm our hypothesis. named after one of the many brilliant Dutch physicists. Full stops (periods) end sentences. If you are afraid the sentence becomes too difficult to parse without the comma. as long as you remember that each sentence should be complete. if it appears at the beginning of a sentence. A comma is nowadays more and more used where one would traditionally expect a semi-colon or a full stop: *Microarrays chart gene expression patterns. This sounds as if the writer does not properly understand the logical connection between the two clauses. two systems are available. When however has its other meaning of “regardless of” it is not followed by a comma: The neurone did not hyperpolarize.

If you fail to do this you are plagiarizing.s. Note that . Only use etc. but they do not belong to a single category and the list is therefore not readily extendable. crocodiles.e. try to say “that is” and not “Aye ee”. elephants. e. is to refer to a usually prominent person together with the people he or she works with or who follow him or her. You can always use including or some phrase to similar effect to indicate the fact that the enumeration is not complete. your source is in no way responsible for any misinterpretations on your part. (Another legitimate use of etc.s.\ or: i. nor meant to be. Also. its editing process means that pages often do not even concord with their own references! Fragments of text that you lift from your sources should be put between quotation marks and be attributed. nutrients. = strictly speaking. = that is (id est) When speaking.\ to obtain proper spacing following the full stop (omit the second backslash if the abbreviation actually ends the sentence. q. = namely (videlicet) The abbreviation c. you are not required to italicize these abbreviations. than i. = compare (confer) It does not mean “see”. *The blood transports oxygen. but always follow up references. Sensu lato and sensu stricto are usually written out in full. if the wikipedia page does not provide them. find your own. = which one should look up (quod vide) s. = for example (exempli gratia) i.q.e.s.l. = in the broad sense (sensu lato) s.g. = and fellows (cum suis) et al. Quotations & reference (Quo) Always attribute facts and findings to the source that provided them.) In the type-setting language LaTeX. Wikipedia cannot be trusted. The abbreviation et al. Microsoft Word is hopeless at this sort of thing.\ e. so it is better to write i. c. In the second sentence. c. and note in passing that a single full stop will do the job of ending both abbreviation and sentence). = and others (et alia) No period follows et which is a complete word. (Of course. e. avoid saying “egg seterah”. tigers etc. if the reader can easily supply more examples: Specialized training is required to treat zoo animals such as monkeys.\ et al. input i. etc. perhaps.doctor: Dr mister: Mr doctors: Drs misters: Messrs A selection of Latin abbreviations that occur regularly in scientific writing: cf. both to pay tribute to the original contribution and to assign responsibility. at the end of a list or enumeration when you have a vague feeling you may have forgotten one or more similar items (and are afraid. = and so on (et cetera) When speaking. but you are unlikely to find yourself needing this in scientific writing. is to abbreviate a formula such as a list of honorifics.v. there certainly are other blood components that have been left out. although you should feel free to do so. = in which case (casu quo) It does not mean “or”. It is lazy writing to put etc. in the narrow sense (sensu stricto) viz. that the reader will take you to task for it). enzymes etc.) By all means use wikipedia. is now spelled et al without the full stop by many scientific journals.e.

In British English. but this is not the case: such words still jump from the page and may trigger outrage. you should feel free to follow either convention. Spell checkers do not pick up mistakes if the misspelled word happens to spell something else: weather = a meteorological condition. you would expect that offensive words become inoffensive when you mention them rather than use them. (*??)To systematically elucidate the relationship between HDL and atherosclerotic risk. Alternatively. we need to better understand the key regulatory factors. It would be incorrect to put a comma before that and/or following lactate. Spelling (Spell) Use the facilities available (automated spelling correction. a more detailed analysis is required. Arguing from a strictly logical point of view. is found in red blood cells. which = that whether = if in the subjunctive sense witch = gothic-looking woman who casts spells . The second sentence suggests (incorrectly) that glucose is the only carbohydrate. *The fuel of red blood cells is the carbohydrate. Single sixes and nines can be employed to distinguish the mention of a word from its use: ‘Boston’ has six letters. If you use that instead of which in the previous sentence. whereas standard practice reverses this order. you imply that there is also a nonproteinaceous lactate dehydrogenase (which could be true but is probably not what you meant). In the last sentence the nines precede the full stop.opening quotes are “sixes” and closing quotes are “nines”.com). in some cases it is better avoided: *The parasite attempts to forcefully enter the host. Nevertheless. it is acceptable to use which instead of that in a restrictive clause. whereas Boston has six million inhabitants. you can put the mentioned words in italics (Boston has six letters). make sure they are syntactically contiguous with the surrounding text. Split infinitive (SI) It is not always wrong to split an infinitive: (*?)To fully understand the effect. which is a protein. Defining (restrictive) information cannot appear between commas: The enzyme that converts pyruvate to lactate is found in red blood cells. Restrictive versus non-restrictive (Res) Compare the following: The fuel of red blood cells is the carbohydrate glucose. If you quote sentence fragments. In scientific prose the need seldom arises to quote whole paragraphs (this is different for scholarly work). oed. but that can only appear in a restrictive clause. glucose. Additional (non-restrictive) information appears between commas: Lactate dehydrogenase.

Correct usage follows phonetics. two stationary points appear. Four mutants were selected for further study. to surmise. Exceptions (which should always be spelled with an s) include: to devise. its precise meaning may elude the reader: *For larger parameter values. It is safer to augment such occurrences of this with a noun or clause that recapitulates the referent: . This is a bifurcation. British and American spelling are equally valid. influence an affect = a certain cognitive state complementary = supplying the remainder too = also an advice (noun) an extent (noun) safe (noun and adjective) a price (cost). alter. to despise.principal = main. an effect = a consequent phenomenon. This When this is followed by its referent. One solution is to use -ise in all cases (as William Shakespeare has a character exclaim: “Thou whoreson zed! Thou unnecessary letter!”). *4 mutants were selected for further study. The function f is defined by an ordinary differential equation. *Al responded differently. Aluminium responded differently. not spelling: an mRNA molecule a uniform an LSD-derivative a Yemenite an x-axis a utopia an NYPD officer a NASA initiative Symbols at beginning of sentences (Sym) Avoid beginning a sentence with a mathematical symbol or a chemical formula or a digit: *f is defined by an ordinary differential equation. to improvise. to prize (appreciate) ensure = make sure principle = fundamental element. to revise. to excise. to apprise. to do without to effect = to make happen. to precede to affect = to modify. to exercise. confusion is unlikely to arise: This phenomenon is called ‘stochastic resonance’. etymology and phonetics both favour -ize in most cases (to characterize. to advise. foremost. a prize (award) insure = what an insurance company does If you find a paper in which the authors perform *“principle component analysis” you should wonder whether the authors have any idea what they are talking about. to supervise. to analyze). to comprise. When this refers back to an element in a preceding sentence. The indefinite article is written either a or an. axiom to forego = to go before. However. but you should be consistent in your choice. complimentary = courtesy-wise to is the preposition to advise (verb) to extend (verb) to save (verb) to price (cost). Verbs ending in -ize or -ise present a special problem. to forgo = to give up on.

Usage (Usage) Note the difference between whether and if: We must see whether the weather allows it. We say red here because it is a predicative adjunct (it says more about what the door becomes than about the painting process). II. serves no purpose and had better be omitted. different from.. a paragraph or sentence that contains nothing new. so not all repetition is automatically bad. Not everything that seems to explicate a verb is an adverb: *The door was painted redly. the collective noun of butterflies is a kaleidoscope).. less water Fewer than is now almost invariably replaced by less than in everyday speech. The advice to native speakers is not to add -ly where their instinct tell them to leave it out. Stick to words that belong to your normal voice and if you do try something new. make sure the word or phrase means what you think it means. PRESENTING STATISTICAL RESULTS . Other things to bear in mind: We need only show. A thesaurus is a good tool if you momentarily cannot think of the expression that is on the tip of your tongue.*This variation of the number of stationary points as the parameter value changes is known as a bifurcation.. but do not be tempted by the delicious unusual words you see along the way (the plural of rhinoceros is rhinocerotes. and it is to be expected that written English will follow suit within the next few decades. but not always: Work hard and you will succeed.. farther (distance) to imply (A implies B) to compare = seek similarities uninterested = not interested *warm/cold temperature *expensive/cheap cost or price *irregardless few people. (never *different than) further (anything else) to infer (a person infers B from A) to contrast = bring out differences disinterested = without a stake in the matter high/low temperature high/low cost/price (or: prohibitive etc. Adverbs in English tend to end in -ly or -wise or -ways. However. Repetitive material (Rep) Saying things more than once in different ways is a key technique in exposition. a few attempts It suffices to show. Shakespeare would still have written hardly here and not meant it in the modern sense. we will go. less daunting... and if it does.) irrespective (or: regardless) less money. or does not permit the reader to view the matter in a different way.

). your chances of being alive next week are worse than even and you will almost certainly be dead a year from now. If this is not possible. In symmetric distributions. You may agree that the very term ‘significant’ tends to obfuscate the issue. you are encouraged to adopt this usage and re-educate your supervisors.) Now. which is commendable. It estimates the accuracy of the sample mean as an estimate of the population mean. The SD should be used when one is reporting data. P=0. The median is any number such that half the data are larger than this number (i. However. (They are.005. More observations mean higher statistical power (q. .05 although you may encounter other values.01. not P<0. but you should remember that. as the number of observations becomes ever larger. present the lowest of the conventional cut-off values that is higher than the P-value. If your supervisor is one of these people. damned lies. the 50th percentile). but it is what most medics use). Altogether the findings are clinically inconclusive. and 0. the mean is a median. It is a measure of the variability (often called “spread”) in the data around the sample mean. if P=0. try to re-educate him or her. Now the confidence interval is 7 to 10 mm Hg.01.“Lies. The higher end of this range is clinically important. so that on the whole it makes sense to do a pilot study first. A few quality journals have moved the goal post to 0. SEM versus SD The SEM is the standard error of the mean. report P<0. Be that as it may. Whether or not a finding is statistically significant is much less important than the associated confidence interval. Thus. The finding is statistically significant. Is it clinically significant? Well. 0. and statistics” You will learn about statistics in a separate module and you may well decide that mastering the technical nitty-gritty of it is not for you. but this is not the case when the distribution from which the data were sampled is skewed. which means that smaller differences become statistically detectable. You should use the one marked σn-1 on your calculator. you are negligent if you fail to heed the following points of advice. The SD is the sample standard deviation. which is a clinically significant range. The SEM is often (incorrectly) abbreviated to SE.001.e. Thus. The confidence interval may be 2 to 14 mm Hg.05 are not considered to indicate a statistically significant result. ‘standard error’. traditionally. It is therefore right and proper that P-values above 0. Why not do the study with more subjects straight away? Because resources are scarce. The latter is unknown.04 is not much better. that depends. Statistical significance versus scientific importance Report the P-value. whereas the lower end is not.05 even though the latter is of course also true.001. Suppose that a drug is found to lower blood pressure on average 8 mm Hg from 100 to 92 mm Hg (mm Hg is not the SI unit of pressure. if you cross a certain busy road two times a day with a probability of 5 percent to be run over. In the latter case. but is of course more reliably estimated when the sample size increases. Mean versus median The mean is the average of the data (the sum of the observations divided by their number). say. 0. Many statisticians nowadays prefer the term statistically detectable. suppose that the study is followed up by a similar study with more observations. it may be better to report the median.v. the SEM shrinks to zero. Returning to the drug example. almost all scientists incorrectly use the SEM nowadays because it is invariably smaller than the SD. since this provides an unbiased estimate of the standard deviation of the distribution from which the data were sampled.

and always try to select honest ways of expressing your own findings. solid. III. Worse. a line graph is usually better than a column chart. Smooth interpolating curves are best not used when the purpose of the graph is to report the data. in Sweden it was found that the rate went down from 0. Usually the curve is shown for the parameter values that result in the closest “fit” to the data set. For instance. This leads to the difficulty that the observations may throw up something important and unexpected. that things are somehow easier to understand in terms of percentages. (A) Use straight lines to connect the means at the various time points sampled. In such cases it is permissible to exhibit the curve that represents this preprocessing. which has the drawback that it is far too conservative for the modern “omics” environment. and some preprocessing (e. proteomics and metabolomics all afford huge.) But one usually hears these things quoted as a percentage. a natural way to express mortality and morbidity is in terms of per person. since you are in effect adding pseudo-data. it is unethical. A simple and straightforward procedure is the Bonferroni correction (q. breast cancer mortality is reported as 0. If you have a mathematical model that purports to capture the processes that gave rise to the data. Perhaps there is just no percentage in honesty— there certainly is little honesty in percentages. Line graphs For time series.v. dotted) to distinguish multiple time . The ethical entanglements can be side-stepped by specifying in advance which tests are going to be carried out. and use the new findings as a pilot upon which you base a study specifically directed at the new finding. Early diagnosis reduces this rate. There are various ways to deal correctly with multiple testing situations. Percentages There is a bizarre perception.39 % during a breast cancer screening trial. For instance. The proper way to deal with this is to report the original hypothesis with the originally projected test in one paper. This good news was reported as a 24 percent reduction in the media. (Annum means year. Do enough tests and you are bound to come up with a statistically significant (better to say: statistically detectable) result or two. For example.5 percent.v. dashed. (B) Use different line styles (e. Sometimes the data are going to be used in a calculation. if they have several attributes). with an all too predictable effect on public opinion. Be deeply suspicious of any science-related percentages being bandied about in the media. in fact.). you can present a curve derived from this model together with the data. Any number of statistically detectable differences can be found.51 % to 0. if you keep at it long enough (there are many different ways of forming subgroups of the objects in your study. Quite often this is simply not the case.g. richly structured data sets that can be subjected to any number of significant tests. per kiloannum. which presumably means that one in 200 women diagnosed with breast cancer die every year. GRAPHICAL PRESENTATION OF RESULTS The message of this section can be summarized in a single sentence: whatever the MS-Excel default would have you do. More suitable for this environment is the step-down procedure (q.Fishing for significance Genomics. deeply ingrained in our culture.). smoothing) is used.g. Of course it is inappropriate to report only the statistically detectable findings. do the exact opposite.

The length of a column or bar is proportional to the value you wish to depict. the most objective representation is obtained if the axes cross at the point (0. or whatever the case may be. Incredibly. Three dimensional column charts show the data as a Manhattan cityscape.0). Pie charts Categorical data that add up to 100 % are often depicted in a pie chart. one could show the raw data as a cloud of points along the centre line of where the column would go.g. 25th.). It is not unusual for experimentalists to be coy about their raw data. which caused graphs with keys and labels to go through many time and money consuming iterations. This has several advantages. The same information can be depicted in a column or bar with differently coloured (or cross-hatched) subsections. (D) In graphs with linear scales. Instead. 50th. mutant. This made sense in a time when graphs had to be prepared by artists who would (typically) not quite understand the subject matter. which has the drawback of being tremendously space-consuming Slightly more economical is an open column without fill colour and horizontal bars at the percentile points. which is important to judge whether appropriate statistical tests have been used. Readers can assess the shape of the distribution and the spread in the data for themselves.v. and do not be tempted to add a phony third dimension to what is really a conventional graph.courses in the same graph from one another. but then they become harder to interpret). and to adorn the column with T-shaped extensions that indicate the standard deviation (or. roughly) 40 data points. there are journals that insist that all of this information must appear in the legend (the caption below the graph). Different symbols at the data points simply do not work well. although you may decide to deviate from this rule to avoid too much waste space in the panel. there is no good reason to adhere to this practice. A traditional format is the box-and-whisker plot (q. when investigators can prepare the graphs themselves on a computer. Instead of mean and SD. These are mostly used to represent categorical data rather than time series. Quite a bit of information is conveyed in the same amount of space a column chart would occupy. This is particularly useful if a number of distributions are to be compared. it is easier to see if alleged statistically significant differences are due to outliers or groups of outliers. For long time series. Keys and legends Graphs are easier to interpret if key information appears in the field of the panel (e. the standard error). arrows that indicate when a drug was added. Disadvantages are that the chart becomes too crowded if the data set contains more than (say. . their averred stock-in-trade. one can show the 5th. Use this option wisely. Column charts and bar charts A set of vertically (occasionally horizontally) arranged bars is often used to represent data sets. labels for the various lines. Today. with the name of the drug next to it). Moreover. Such charts are extremely space consuming (one could print them smaller to save space. 75th. and that cognoscenti can glean more from your chart than you wish to reveal. graphs that are much wider than they are tall are appropriate. and 95th percentiles. but it is not appropriate to deviate from squarish proportion in order to exaggerate the impression you want the graph to make. incorrectly. A default choice is to let the column length correspond to a sample mean. (C) Use axes of even length. where each observation corresponds to a different treatment. peptide. Such a graph is called a ‘column chart’ (‘bar chart’ if the bars are horizontal).

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