Style Question

jupiterboy's picture

I don't know what to call it, but we often use a singular form of a word and it has an implied plural meaning. In this case, the phrase "as it appears in publication". You could say "publications", much like you could say "substances abuse" or "customers' satisfaction". Is there a term for this that I can use to mine info?

cerulean's picture

I think it's a form of mass noun.

vanina's picture

You got it!

Or you can call it a "non-specific singular," which is any singular noun without a "the" in front of it, especially when it's in a general sense like your instances.

jupiterboy's picture

Thanks. It is hard for me to explain why it sounds odd. No doubt a label will help.

cerulean's picture

It probably sounds odd to you because you're thinking of concrete "publications", which is a count noun. We don't tend to say "three volumes of publication" the way we say "three sheets of paper" or "three grains of rice". In the phrase "as it appears in publication", the word "publication" belongs in the same category as abstract mass nouns like "science" and "typography"; it refers to the act of publishing and the whole of all things ever published everywhere.

The fact that nouns aren't pluralized when used as modifiers, as in "substance abuse" and "dog catcher", is unrelated.

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