the <outline/outlines> of the distribution


Why not "the outline of the distribution" but "the outlines of the distribution"? Isn't the former better here since it describes the distribution?

The Milky Way contains over a trillion planets. While we are nowhere remotely close to a full accounting of this vast population, the outlines of the distribution, and how it came to be, are rapidly falling within our grasp.

-Scientific American

  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I would say there is very little to choose between outline and outlines. I think outlines is used when something is less clear, and so the lines are not clearly joined up. You can say something like, 'I saw the outlines of a wolf in the fog.' Outline is used for something more precise.
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