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I saw some papers using expressions like "five-fold contributions".

What's the difference between this and "five contributions"?

Which one is better? What are the appropriate scenarios for the word "fold"?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, MετάEd, Kris, aedia λ, Kristina Lopez Jun 5 '13 at 19:03

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

-fold as a suffix implies multiplication, rather than a simple amount. You can compare the term to folding a piece of paper, although the math there is a little different (exponential rather than linear).

So, if you're only saying that someone has made five contributions, then -fold is not appropriate.

However, if they're making five times the contributions that they had made in previous years, then that is when you should say fivefold (as pointed out in the comments, note that it is generally preferred to not use a hyphen(1)(2)).

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As a mathematician, I've never liked this expression. If you fold a piece of paper (over on itself) then you half the size. A second fold takes you to a quarter of the original size. A third fold takes you to an eighth of the original size. Whether increasing or decreasing, "fold" ought to refer to powers of two: either $2^k$ or $1/2^k$. – Fly by Night Jun 4 '13 at 21:17
@FlybyNight: Unless you make accordion folds, in which case five folds creates five additional "panels". – J.R. Jun 4 '13 at 21:38
@FlybyNight You're right, comparing it to folding a piece of paper doesn't quite make sense - updated answer. – Hannele Jun 5 '13 at 14:37

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