Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stop using that word: Accordance

Consider "accordance". It's a sleek, shiny word. But it's terribly misused in scientific manuscripts.

To pick on just one example, take the following text from a recent publication by Neil Kelleher's group at Northwestern (bold emphasis mine):
Our observations were in accordance with a previous study on nostocyclopeptide, where certain amino acids in the peptide sequence were found essential for the spontaneous macrocyclization of the peptidyl aldehyde intermediate into a cyclic imine.
And another example from a total synthesis of daptomycin by Xuechen Li:
The spectrum was in full accordance with those in the literature.
Not quite right.

"Accord" implies agreement. It's what writers usually mean when they use "accordance". For instance:
His dismal personal life was in accord with his excellent progress in total synthesis.
"Accordance", in contrast, implied obedience. It refers to compliance with a rule.
My one day of vacation per year is in accordance with group policy.
Examples of the correct use of "accordance" are actually hard to find. Consider this paper by Robert West at Wisconsin. An excerpt (bold emphasis mine):
In accordance with Bent’s rule, the increased R–O bond polarities of permethylated species lead to increased oxygen hybrid s-character and R–O–R bending angles in both ethers and siloxanes.
That one is arguably correct.

The difficulty is probably that "in accord with" doesn't flow quite smoothly. Perhaps a better option would be simply to say "in agreement with". Either way, reviewers probably won't catch it.

This has been a public service announcement.

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