When writing out measurements, it is best to use numerals and show the units of measurement. Some units have standard abbreviation which can be used although these may need to be written out fully for their first use in the paper if it is not obvious for the field.
Example of error: The measured weight was 3 gs.
Fixed – option 1: The measured weight was 3 grams.
Fixed – option 2: The measured weight was 3 g.
Common error: Pluralizing measured (or uncounted) quantities
Example of error: Then, 3.3 mL of the solution were separated.
Fixed: Then, 3.3 mL of the solution was separated.
Example of error: 12% of the time were spent undercover.
Fixed: 12% of the time was spent undercover.
This rule refers to measured quantities (as opposed to counted) where there may be decimal places or things are not counted one by one. For individual items that can be counted, use the plural.
Example of good use: Four solutions were considered.
Example of good use: 30% of participants were over 40 years old.
When writing measurements, it’s generally better to use whole numbers or decimals as these are likely what the measurement tool uses and is easier for readers to compare. For example, it takes a moment to figure out whether 3/7 or 4/9 is higher, but it’s clear that 0.43 is lower than 0.44.
Exercise 6 – plurals in measurements:
1. Which is correct?
(a) We found that 14% of hats were black.
(b) We found that 14% of hats was black.
2. Which is correct?
(a) There were 8 g of silicone.
(b) There was 8 g of silicone.
3. Which is correct?
(a) The results showed there were a 20% decrease.
(b) The results showed there was a 20% decrease.
Answers to exercise 6:
1. (a) is correct because we can count the number of hats that are black.
2. (b) is correct because the quantity is measured rather than counted.
3. (b) is correct because we cannot count the decrease; we can only measure or calculate it
Example of error: The dosage was .34 mL.
Fixed: The dosage was 0.34 mL.
This is clearer because the reader can easily notice the decimal point.
There are some exceptions to this rule such as when a range is between 0 and 1, such as with some statistical tests. In these cases, check the relevant style guide.