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I want to know the exact meaning of "Of all".

For example, in a paper the author in the first paragraph explained some methods and at the beginning of paragraph 2, he started with:

"Of all the above methods, ... "

and explains another method. My questions:

1: What is the exact meaning of "Of all" at the beginning of the paragraph?
2: Is it suitable for use in scientific papers?

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closed as general reference by tchrist, Kris, Hellion, Lynn, MετάEd Dec 26 '12 at 6:53

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's a pretty obvious summation. – Robusto Dec 23 '12 at 17:41
I don't understand the context here. It could never be valid to start a paragraph with "Of all the above methods, and then continue with further text explaining another method. The only valid way to continue the first sentence of the second paragraph would be with something like Of all the above methods, the first one is the simplest. Unless the context can be clarified I see no choice but to closevote as NARQ. – FumbleFingers Dec 23 '12 at 22:33
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You will find this at the beginning of a sentence only immediately before the author focuses attention on one or more of those methods as the subject of the following clause, e.g. "Of all the above methods, the Schartz-Metterklume method is clearly the best."

More generally, the construction is "of [ENUMERATED SET], MEMBER[S]" ... it does not require "all", but in some cases the use of "all" helps to clarify. For instance "The first three of these methods are fairly effective, but of all it is the fourth, the Schartz-Metterklume method, which is clearly the best."

And the phrase need not come at the beginning: "The Schartz-Metterklume method, of all those named, is clearly the best."

And, yes, it is entirely suitable for scientific papers as long as you deploy it correctly.

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This function of of is usually referred to as the partitive function. It introduces a reference set that the modified noun should be compared against. Let's call the prepositional phrase that it starts a “partitive prepositional phrase.” Some examples of an in situ partitive prepositioanl phrase:

Rodgers was [the only player] [out of thirty] who scored the requisite number of points.
Bugs was [the fastest] [of all rabbits].

To use this construction, the object of the partitive preposition must be a quantified noun phrase (i.e., it has a numeral or some quantifier like all, every). Also, it is possible to use out of as the preposition rather than just of.

A partitive prepositional phrase can be moved to the front of a sentence. Doing so is usually referred to as topicalization.

Out of thirty players, Rogers was the only one who scored the requisite number of points.
Of all rabbits, Bugs was the fastest.

Both the in situ and the topicalized forms are appropriate for articles and formal writing styles.

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That's an interesting and useful use of in situ. Is it a term of art, or your own nonce-invention? – StoneyB Dec 23 '12 at 19:40
@StoneyB it's a somewhat common term in the syntax literature. see the wikipedia article on wh-movement. – jlovegren Dec 23 '12 at 19:51
Thank you. It's exciting to come back to grammar after forty years and discover all the work you guys have done. – StoneyB Dec 23 '12 at 20:05

Out of means ‘singled out from’. I’m not familiar with the conventions of writing scientific papers, but I see no reason why out of cannot be used in academic prose in this way.

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