Re: Fig. vs Figs.?

Subject: Re: Fig. vs Figs.?
From: "Adam Turner" <adam -dot- turner -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "Geoff Hart" <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2007 23:50:52 +0900

I should have given a little more context to my question "Is the word figure
singular or plural in-text
when describing alphabetically labeled divisions of a single numbered
figure? EXAMPLES *Fig. 12 (a), (b), and (c) shows* OR Figs. 12 *(a),
(b), and (c) show "

I am talking about academic engineering journal articles where the
abreviation "Fig." is the norm with or without parentheses.

*"This definition (6) may also be useful to attenuate small-scale
discontinuities or to take into account some geometrical features of the
images under study, see Figs. 3b and 3c."*
Also, it is fairly common practice to include a number of images in a single
numbered figure. This is probably a space saving device given the size
limitations of scientific articles. For example, there are three images in
Fig. 4 here:

*Fig. 4. (a)* Example of a realization of a CPC Q' (gray levels) with ð2Þ '
0:16—see (12) about the role of ð2Þ.* (b)* Estimated (log)histograms of
normalized wavelet coefficients at various octaves j: they are all clearly
non-Gaussian (Gaussian ) parabola).* (c) *Power law spectrum of Q'ðxÞ as a
function of k ¼ kkk over two decades: the observed slope is prescribed by
the choice of ð2Þ.* [some formatting may be lost. Bolding added]*


There does not seem to be any difference between refering to one figure
containing multiple images and separately numbered figures. Logically, there
should be a difference. Here are some text samples from different published

- *It can also be seen, by comparing Figs. 5(b) and 6(a),*
- *in Figs. 4 (a)–(c).
- *Typical analytical models are shown in Figs. 4 and 5. Some of the
failure mode shapes are shown in Fig. 6.*

I like Geoff's solution here. I have just abbreviated the word Figure.
"Fig. 12 (a, b, and c) shows"

We also know that published papers don't always show best practices, but I
would like to give guidelines to my graduate engineering students.


On 11/20/07, Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca> wrote:
> Adam Turner wondered: <<Is the word figure singular or plural in-text
> when describing alphabetically labeled divisions of a single numbered
> figure? EXAMPLES *Fig. 12 (a), (b), and (c) shows* OR Figs. 12 *(a),
> (b), and (c) show *>>
> Most style guides I've seen (specifically, the author guidelines
> published online by science journals) do not allow the abbreviation
> of "Figure" outside of brackets*, and few seem to use the brackets
> for the sub-figures. So I'd right this (and write this <grin>) as
> "Figure 12 shows". Note that there's only one figure, not three.
> * Nor do they permit the use of most abbreviations that require
> punctuation outside of brackets. This is for a very good reason: the
> period introduces needless punctuation and thus, creates needless
> complexity, in the sentence. Occasionally, it even makes the sentence
> significantly more difficult to parse.
> If you need the three letters (i.e., they are only three of many more
> sub-figures), try: "Figure 12 (a, b, and c) shows". Better still,
> don't cite more than one sub-figure when the meaning is only present
> in one. For example: "Figure 12a shows X, [Figure] 12b shows Y, and
> [Figure] 12c shows Z." Whether to repeat the word "Figure" is a style
> decision, but my take on this is that the further apart each number,
> the more useful the repetition becomes.
> Also note (as it's not a trivial point) that using the full word only
> adds two characters to the total length once you delete the period,
> so it's not like the abbreviation offers any advantage over the
> unabbreviated form. Engineers and scientists love their abbreviations
> far too well, and we sometimes fall into the trap of adopting their
> bad habits.
> ----------------------------------------------------
> -- Geoff Hart
> ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
> --------------------------------------------------
> ***Now available*** _Effective onscreen editing_
> (

Adam Turner

English Writing Center
Hanyang University
Center for Teaching and Learning
Seoul, Korea

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Fig. vs Figs.: From: Adam Turner
Fig. vs Figs.?: From: Geoff Hart

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