Terms to watch out for

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sensitivity, specificity

sensitivity: the proportion of truly positive units that are correctly identified as positive by a test

specificity: the proportion of truly negative units that are correctly identified as negative by a test

sewage, sewerage

sewage: waste materials that pass through sewers

sewerage: the system of drains that carries sewage

Sewage system and sewerage system are both acceptable.



sign, symptom

sign: evidence of disease that can be recognised by someone other than the patient. For example, a rash, diarrhoea and fever are signs because they can be detected by another person

symptom: evidence of disease that can only be reported by the patient. For example, a headache, nausea and muscle aches are symptoms because they can only be experienced by the patient; other people can only know about them if told by the patient

significant, statistically significant

In science writing, significant should be used with care because it can indicate either statistical significance or a quality of importance, leading to ambiguity:

There was a significant difference between the 2 populations in their racial makeup. [It is not clear whether this means an obvious and important difference or a difference that is statistically significant.]

Alternative terms to indicate nonstatistical significance include substantial, important, major and valuable. See also proof


solute, solution, solvent

solute: a substance that is dissolved in a solvent to produce a solution

solution: a homogeneous mixture that is produced when a solute is dissolved in a solvent

solvent: a substance in which a solute is dissolved to produce a solution



statistically significant



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