Use of English

massive

"Has mass" – the opposite of "massless". Does not mean "is large".

Though the up quark is a massive particle, it is not very big.

physics

maths

Not "math", as the shortened form of "mathematics".

style

may or might?

The subtle distinctions between these (and between other so-called modal verbs) are gradually disappearing, but they still matter to many readers and can be useful.

grammar

meet, met

Do not add the word "with" after meet or met. Write:

I met John the other day and tomorrow I will meet his wife. 

Not:

I met with John the other day and tomorrow I will meet with his wife. 

grammar

member state

Lower case

style

meson

A subatomic particle made of a quark and an antiquark.

physics

mid-

mid-50s

mid-90s

mid-week

mid-season

But midday

style

might or may?

See may or might?

grammar

millisieverts

Measure of radiation dose; symbol mSv

See sievert.

physics

moon

Always lower case.

multidisciplinary

No hyphen.

style

multipurpose

One word, no hyphen.

spelling, style

muon

An unstable subatomic particle of the same class as an electron (a lepton), but with a mass around 200 times greater. Muons make up much of the cosmic radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.

physics

MW

megawatts

mW

milliwatts

names

Use the full name on first mention, just the surname thereafter. Do not use titles:

John Smith is leading the particle-acclerator team. "I hope to accelerate lots of particles," says Smith.

For middle initials add a full stop and a space after each capital letter:

E. O. Wilson is a famous evolutionary biologist.

style

nationalities

Use a capital letter when you are writing the names of places, and words relating to them:

Africa, African
China, Chinese
England, Englishman
France, He speaks French

See capital letters

style

nature

Lower case.

style

ndash;

Use "ndashes" – like these – to separate clauses in sentences. The HTML code to use is – Use hyphens elsewhere (compound adjectives, for example). 

The particle detector – housed in a custom-built cavern 100 metres below ground – is made up of concentric subdetectors. 

grammar, style

nearby

One word, whether adjective or adverb: the pub nearby; the nearby pub

spelling, style

neutrino

Plural: neutrinos.

A neutral subatomic particle with a mass close to zero and half-integral spin, which rarely reacts with normal matter. Three kinds of neutrinos are known, associated with the electron, muon, and tau particle.

physics

neutron

A subatomic particle of about the same mass as a proton but without an electric charge, present in all atomic nuclei except those of ordinary hydrogen.

physics

Nobel prize

Nobel prize in physics, Nobel prize in literature, Nobel peace prize etc.

See nobelprize.org for detailed information about Nobel laureates including biographies and full transcriptions of their acceptance speeches. 

style

non-discriminatory language

As an international organization, CERN has to take care in its texts to avoid any impression of discrimination with regard to gender, race, culture, nationality, religion, etc.

Sometimes, offence may be caused inadvertently where the reader and the author have different sensitivities. The most frequent example of this, and one which is being addressed throughout the United Nations system of organizations, is gender bias.

See gender

style

none

It is a (persistent) myth that "none" has to take a singular verb: plural is acceptable and often sounds more natural, eg "none of the current squad are good enough to play in the Premiership", "none of the issues have been resolved"

grammar

nucleon

A proton or neutron.

physics

numbers

Numbers

When applied to countable objects, spell out numbers below 10:

  • There are four large detectors at the LHC.
  • The LHC construction project had three phases.

For 10 and above, use digits. Numbers up to 9999 do not take a comma. Numbers with five digits take a comma every three digits. So it’s:

One, nine, 10, 100, 1001 and 9999, but 10,000 or 564,381 or 1,057,983.

Try to avoid putting numbers at the start of a sentence, but if it’s unavoidable, spell them out.

style

obituary

The headline should be in the format NAME (Birthyear - Deathyear)

Joe Bloggs (1933 - 2008)

The strapline should contain a description of the person based on highlights from their career:

Theorist who revolutionized random-sets algebra and paved the way for supersymmetric theories of time

The obituary should be respectful and measured. Do not be defamatory, but equally do not exaggerate the person's contribution. Avoid superlatives.

style

OK

Not "okay"

Ombud

Capital "O" for CERN's Ombud.

Not ombuds, ombudsman or even ombudsperson.

style

online

No hyphen

spelling

Open Days

Capital "O", capital "D".

Over 70,000 people visited CERN during the Open Days event this year. 

 

style

openlab

CERN openlab has a lower case "o". See their website

style

organisation

With an "s". 

Except when referring to CERN - "The Organization" - which takes a "z" and an upper case "O". (This is because the name was spelt with a "z" in the CERN convention, so the "z" is part of the official name).

Remember, follow British English for spelling.

style

particle decay

The spontaneous process of one fundamental particle transforming into other fundamental particles. During this process, an fundamental particle becomes a different particle with less mass and an intermediate particle is created. For example, a W boson can decay into a tau and a neutrino. The intermediate particle then transforms into other particles. If the particles created are not stable - like the tau in this example - the decay process can continue.

physics

particles

Always spell out the name of the particle – do not use the mathematical symbol in text.

The mathematical symbols may only be used in diagrams when they are spelled out in full in the accompanying caption. See graphs and charts.

physics, style

PDF

Whenever you link to a PDF, make sure to put the link on the letters [PDF] inside square brackets. This is for people using the website on a mobile phone - PDFs can take a long time to load. 

Find out more about CERN in the general brochure [PDF]

style

percentage

Digit followed by % sign, no space:

Of the 5000 people who answered the survey, 10% were French.

58%, 90% etc

When calculating percentages, beware the "rose by/fell by X%" construction: an increase from 3% to 5% is a 2-percentage-point increase or a 2-point increase, not a 2% increase

Never use the "per thousand" symbol, ‰

0.001 not 1‰

For smaller decimals, house style decrees scientific notation:

style

petabyte

Lower case. Not Petabyte, or worse, PetaByte

A unit of information equal to one thousand million million (1015) or, strictly, 250 bytes.

Almost overnight, companies are transitioning from storing gigabytes of data to managing terabytes, and even petabytes, of information.

computing, spelling, style

PhD

Capital P, lower case h, capital D. Note the lack of punctuaction. 

Jenny will defend her PhD thesis this year.

style

phone numbers

See telephone numbers

style

photon

Plural: photons.

A particle representing a quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation.

physics

pie charts

Use only 2D pie charts, and label each slice with its corresponding percentage.

A rant about 3D pie charts

Never use 3D pie charts. They misrepresent data.

The important parameter of a pie chart is area. If the pie is represented in 3D, the foreshortening skews the area of each slice and the chart becomes misleading.

In the example below, the 1% slice is at the "back" of the chart – the perspective imposed makes that slice look smaller. Bringing this slice to the front would similarly skew the look of the chart, making the 1% slice look bigger.

style

PIN

Or PIN number (we realise PIN stands for personal identification number - but the tautology is in near universal use), not Pin or pin number

style

pion

Not pi-meson.

place names

When quoting country, state or county names after the name of a town, set commas before and after:

New results were announced at the conference in Osaka, Japan, last week.

British

It is not necessary to say that London is in the UK. For all other UK cities, spell out explicitly that they are in the UK. 

A team of physicists from Manchester in the UK reported that…

style

plasma

An ionized gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons in proportions resulting in more or less no overall electric charge, typically at low pressures (as in the upper atmosphere and in fluorescent lamps) or at very high temperatures (as in stars and nuclear fusion reactors).

The current passed through a column of plasma.

See quark-gluon plasma

physics

pm and am

See time

style

police officer

Not policeman.

program

A computer program; otherwise programme

A programme of activities. CERN's research programme.

computing

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