as (a) percentage of (the) number of

tonko

Senior Member
Italian
Hello to everyone, as usually I'm always struggling with the definite and indefinite article, which one to use or not to. The sentence is the following, and it is a figure legend, it that helps any, are the rules slightly different in that case, as I did observe a tendency to leave out the articles in some figure legends or its just my wrong perception.
So here it goes:
The frequency of surviving plasma cells over time is defined as a percentage of the number of antibody forming spots.

I do not know if I should leave out the first article, is it true that sometimes is better to avoid the definite article as the start of the sentence, especially maybe in figure legends?
Next, should I say as the percentage, I would say "as a percentage", but they are actually calculated therefore specific or simply "as percentage", the same question goes for "of the number" , "of number"?
Actually I dislike this phrase, and this "of of" construction and to say percentage of the number is sort of redundant?
"as a percentage of antibody forming spots" is better, but I'm still puzzled how to use the articles?
So this is actual phrase which I want to use, but I am using it also to understand a bit more the usage of the articles, so any suggestion is more than welcomed and will be appreciated.


This are actually my thoughts, I would say "defined as a percentage of the" and "expressed as the percentage of the " , is this wrong?
Cheers
 
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  • tonko

    Senior Member
    Italian
    May I say both, as I would like to understand how to use the articles in the both examples.

    The frequency of surviving plasma cells over time is defined as (the/a/x) percentage of (the/x) number of antibody forming spots

    The frequency of surviving plasma cells over time is defined as
    (the/a/x) percentage of antibody forming spots

    Thank you.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    How I would say it... and the same sentence after your "So here it goes":
    The frequency of surviving plasma cells over time is defined as a percentage of the number of antibody forming spots.

    Keeping in mind that I'm just assuming "antibody forming spots" is the right terminology... and frequency as a percentage figure looks slightly odd to me... so I'm just commenting on "a percentage of the number of."
     

    tonko

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Oops, sure, didn't see that, frequency as a percentage sounds a bit tautological and it should be avoided .
    The survival rate of plasma cells over time is ...
    Sounds better. Thank you.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    To your original question : yes, it is common for figure legends in scientific papers to use a different "form" of English - rather like newspaper headlines do! Complete sentences are usually not required and non-essential articles are often omitted. When describing (in the text) the content of the figure, however, normal English is required.

    I'll leave the science wording details to you since you know the design and measures but
    The survival rate of plasma cells over time is ...
    cannot be expressed simply as a percentage - you need a unit that can express a rate :D You could omit the word rate : This figure shows the survival of (x) plasma cells as a function of (x) time after (x) infusion (?). The value for (x) plasma cells is expressed as a percentage of (relative to??) the number of antibody-forming spots.
    The (x) symbols indicate where an article might have been used but is absent.
     

    tonko

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you for your comment, but it will still be puzzling to me when I can omit the article, I believe we are just talking about the definite article.

    Let me give you some examples where the similar phrasing was used, so I didn´t find it wrong as you are suggesting. The second phrase has no sense, don´t misunderstand me, but it is simply non logical and incorrect , but the first one maybe ,however does not sound scientific and it is unclear therefore unacceptable.
    But back to an example ;
    "The survival rate is expressed as the percentage of cells able... "
    and it is from PNAS, an excellent journal.

    This is my final version
    The survival of plasma cells as a function of time is expressed as the percentage of antibody forming spots.

    Still confused, may I or should I exclude some articles?


    And one more thing, I would never use double definite article in this case,
    "The survival of the plasma cells is/was", sounds so bad, even if you said that is absent in the case of figure legends.
    Am I wrong?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "The survival rate is expressed as the percentage of cells able... "
    and it is from PNAS, an excellent journal.

    This is my final version
    The survival of plasma cells as a function of time is expressed as the percentage of antibody forming spots.

    Still confused, may I or should I exclude some articles?


    And one more thing, I would never use double definite article in this case,
    "The survival of the plasma cells is/was", sounds so bad, even if you said that is absent in the case of figure legends.
    Am I wrong?
    You already have omitted some :D In other, perhaps nonscientific situations one might use a "the" before plasma or before time (of infusion etc), but as you say, the "zero" article is appropriate here.

    The figure legend could easily be written as
    "The survival of plasma cells as a function of time, expressed as the percentage of antibody forming spots."

    PNAS is indeed prestigious, but not infallible. My nitpicky point was simply that a
    rate requires two parameters (the second one is usually time): e.g., a speed is a rate of movement (distance per time). An extent of survival can be a %.
    One could measure a rate of survival by plotting extent vs. time :D Back to grammar briefly: how would one actually express a rate of survival?


    The figure/graph shows the survival of plasma cells, expressed as the percentage of antibody forming spots, (plotted) as a function of time (after something; what defines t=0?.
     

    tonko

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thanks a lot for your comments. It is truly helpful to discuss about this, and I do appreciate it :D

    As you suggested a rate requires two parameters, and the second is usually time, and that is why it is redundant to say it, especially is you are talking about a survival rate, but I have to agree I do not like the term cell survival rate, it does not sound correct, or it is implying something wrong.

    What you are proposing sounds good, but you why the part in grey, as a function of time sounds good to me as the end of the sentence.

    I did not manage to reply to your remark on the other post, but I surely will as I would love to hear more from you.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I just looked again at the other thread and wondered why m y post from today had gone - until I reralized there are two similar threads. Kalamazoo also pointed out the rate issue :D He also raised the issue of "survival" and its being relative to "what" in a clearer manner than I did here.

    The part in grey is not a grammatical issue, solely a scientific clarification. Perhaps the rest of the figure legend will explain it or perhaps the text is abundantly clear. In my experience, the best figure legends do not require the reader to look in the text for major points needed to understand the figure (details are in the M&M sections)
     
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