Archive for December, 2013

Numbered Equations

December 20, 2013

Today’s Tip of the Day comes from Evan Bernard, a young lady who helped me on the Big Gigunda Project that kept me so busy I couldn’t do my Tips of the Day for months. She’s an excellent technical writer who is now working on contract for Oxy to get some facilities bid document packages out the door in good shape. She taught me how to number equations, and I wanted to share her instructions with the Peanut Gallery.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Style Guide has this to say about formatting equations:
“Each equation in the text should be indented and numbered, and should feature a dot leader that terminates at the
equation number, which is in parentheses, on the right margin.”

To accomplish this in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:
•       If you are using an equation built with the Word equation builder, click the equation to highlight it, and then click the small, downward-pointing arrow to the right of the equation to open a pop-up menu. In this menu, select Change to Inline. If you do not see this option, but do see “Change to Display,” do nothing. Likewise, if your equation is not built in the equation builder, skip this step.
•       Now you will indent your equation. There are two ways to do this:
     1.      Using the Paragraph dialog box
          o       Make sure your cursor is on the same line as your equation.
          o       Either right-click your equation’s line and select Paragraph from the pop-up menu, or go up to the Home
tab and click the small, diagonally pointed arrow to the right of “Paragraph” to open the Paragraph dialog box.
        o       In the Paragraph dialog box, make sure you are on the Indents and Spacing tab.
        o       In the Indentation group, change the Left value to whatever indentation is appropriate, e.g., 0.5″.
        o       Click OK.
    2.      Using the Ruler
        o       Make sure your cursor is on the same line as your equation.
        o       Go up to the horizontal ruler just above your document and click and drag the First Line Indent marker
so that it is in line with the Hanging Indent and Left Indent markers (essentially, you want all those gray markers on the ruler to line up).
        o       Click the Left Indent marker (the little rectangle under the two triangles) and drag it to your desired indentation.
•       Place your cursor behind your equation and press the Tab key.
•       Now you will insert your equation number:
        o       Go to the References tab and, in the Captions group, click Insert Caption to open the Caption dialog box.
        o       In the Options group, click the Label drop-down list and select Equation.
        o       Click the “Exclude label from caption” checkbox to check it.
        o       Click OK.
•       Type parentheses around the equation number.
•       Now you will make your tab put the equation number up against the right margin with a dotted leader. There are two ways to do this:
    1.      Using the Paragraph dialog box
        o       Make sure your cursor is on the same line as your equation.
        o       Either right-click your equation’s line and select Paragraph from the pop-up menu, or go up to the Home tab and click the small, diagonally pointed arrow to the right of “Paragraph” to open the Paragraph dialog box.
        o       In the Paragraph dialog box, click Tabs… to open the Tabs dialog box.
        o       In the Tabs dialog box, place your cursor in the “Tab stop position” field and enter whatever value corresponds with your right margin (usually 6.5″).
        o       In the Alignment group, click the Right radio button to select it.
        o       In the Leader group, click the 2 ……. radio button to select it.
        o       Click Set.
        o       Click OK.
    2.      Using the Ruler
        o       Make sure your cursor is on the same line as your equation.
        o       Go up to the horizontal ruler and click the little square box on the far left of the ruler until it gives you a backwards L shape. It should take two clicks if you started with an L shape, but if you didn’t, just keep clicking until you get a backwards L, which is the symbol for a right tab.
        o       Click anywhere in the ruler to place the right tab.
        o       Click and drag that right tab all the way to the right margin.
        o       Double-click the right tab symbol to open the Tabs dialog box.
        o       In the Tabs dialog box, in the Leader group, click the 2 ……. radio button to select it.
        o       Click OK.

You should now have an equation that is properly formatted according to the SPE Style Guide. As you add more equations, the Equation captions function will auto-number them for you, and you can even cross-reference them in the text if you like.

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Profound Equation Quotes of the Day:

“Politics is for the present, but an equation is for eternity.”
– Albert Einstein,  German physicist, 1879-1955
“Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales.”
– Stephen Hawking, English physicist, b. 1942
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Black and White, No Gray Area

December 20, 2013

Lots of people use the adverb “very” to modify adjectives that do not have a range of values.

Bad Examples:
Adequate hydration is very necessary.
This equipment is very critical to our operations.

In fact, a search on Google showed 902,000 hits for “very necessary,” so the Grammar Police have declared it an official epidemic.

Either something is necessary, or it’s not. It’s critical, or it’s not. There is no sliding scale of degrees of necessary, no gray area of criticality, only black and white. The only choices are yes and no, not maybe.

Very is an intensifier that is used to make adjectives stronger. Intensifiers should only be used to modify gray words, adjectives that have ranges of degree, not absolute words that are either black or white.

Some other “absolute” words that should never have “very” in front of them:
• Dead
• Unique
• Perfect
• Fatal
• Irrevocable

The only acceptable usage of “very critical” would be when you mean “inclined to criticize,” rather than “vital or indispensable.” The length, the regularity, and the degree of the criticism could all vary from a little to a whole lot.

Example:
She has a very critical mother-in-law, who gives her the third degree every time she visits.

The Free Dictionary defines “the third degree” as a situation in which someone tries to find out information by asking you a lot of questions.

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
– Winston Churchill, English statesman, 1874-1965
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+, -, and ±

December 20, 2013

Using a plus sign in front of a number shows that it is a positive number, as opposed to a negative number, which has a minus sign in front of it.

However, I have seen the expression “+250 BOPD” being used to mean “more than 250 barrels of oil per day,” which is not correct usage. If you want to use a symbol to express “more than,” you should use the greater than sign, >.

Conversely, producing -250 BOPD does not mean “producing less than 250 BOPD;” it means the well is sucking 250 barrels of oil into it from the surface, which is probably not really happening. To express the concept of “less than,” you should use the symbol <.

I've also seen +/- 250 BOPD used to express the idea of "250 BOPD, more or less". For one thing, you should use the symbol ± instead of +/-, but only to express the magnitude of the error bar after a mean or median value.

Example:
250 ± 10 BOPD

If you want to use a symbol to express "approximately," then you should use a tilde (~), and it should be right up against the number with no space between it and the number.

Example:
~250 BOPD

But don't overuse the tilde. Engineers like to estimate everything without giving a hard and firm number, but putting a tilde in front of every number in a paragraph can be excessive. You can express the wiggle room in numbers using words like:
• About
• Around
• Approximately
• Nearly
• Almost
• Roughly
• In the neighborhood of
• On the order of
Of these, "approximately" is generally preferred.

To avoid using such a long word too many times, though, you can use other expressions in the sentence that have the concept of approximation already built in, such as:
• Estimated
• Forecasted (not 4cst)
• Likely
• Expected
• Predicted
• Projected
• Anticipated

There are plenty of ways, using symbols and verbiage, to cover your options.

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Nobody wants a prediction that the future will be more or less like the present, even if that is, statistically speaking, an excellent prediction.”
– Nathan Myhrvold, American businessman, former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, b. 1959

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