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(I'll use “spooky-graphoid” as a randomly made-up technical term and “saturated” as a random adjective from the scientific vernacular.)

First, when it comes to the definition of a “saturated spooky-graphoid”, which of the following phrasings are grammatically acceptable?

  • A spooky-graphoid is said saturated when/if…
  • A spooky-graphoid is said a saturated spooky-graphoid when/if…
  • A spooky-graphoid is said to be saturated when/if…
  • A spooky-graphoid is said to be a saturated spooky-graphoid when/if…
  • (something I didn't think of, or something that involves a rephrasing. E.g.: A saturated spooky-graphoid is a spooky-graphoid such that [rephrased part].)

Then, which is the most advisable, considering criteria such as grammaticality, reading ease, and space occupation (which, for scientific publications, possibly does matter)?

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2 Answers 2

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is said to be is the correct construct so the last two are correct, the first two not

I prefer the 3rd example

A spooky-graphoid is said to be saturated when/if…

UPDATE

I do not believe you can replace is said to be with called for these reasons:

Using called implies in my opinion that one can replace the spooky-graphoid with saturated, whereas is said to be will ADD the state or property of saturated to the spooky-graphoid, making it a saturated spooky-graphoid.

For example

A parallelogram is called a lozenge when all four sides have the same length

vs

A parallelogram is said to be a lozenge-shaped parallelogram when all four sides have the same length

Substitute my second example with something that does NOT change its name when it is said to be something

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  • Ok, from your answer I deduce that skipping the “to be” part is not an option at all. I've seen it a couple of times though (for example search engines report many occurrences of “is said valid”). Sep 19, 2013 at 14:51
  • @StéphaneGimenez - It's possible they chopped "to be" as an ellipsis of thought, but "is said to be" feels more natural to me.
    – Lynn
    Sep 19, 2013 at 14:55
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    @npst: Sure, but with this one it's not quite obvious that the sentence is a definition anymore. I'd rather avoid it. Sep 19, 2013 at 15:04
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    @StéphaneGimenez I propose "is called saturated" then.
    – npst
    Sep 19, 2013 at 15:23
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    @npst: Yay. I think this is the “something I didn't think of” that answers best my question :-) Thanks! Sep 19, 2013 at 15:29
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You can also use "called" for "said to be" in this context, i.e.

A spooky-graphoid is called saturated if...

I have seen "said" here (with no "to be") in published technical writing but it doesn't sound like English (and may have been written by non-native speakers).

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  • I do not agree. You suggest that one can replace the spooky-graphoid with saturated, whereas is said to be will ADD the state saturated to the spooky-graphoid, making it a saturated spooky-graphoid. Secondly this answer was already mentioned in a comment to my answer in September. A parallelogram is called a lozenge when all four sides have the same length vs A parallelogram is said to be a lozenge-shaped parallelogram when all four sides have the same length
    – mplungjan
    Feb 8, 2014 at 15:33
  • I think OP is asking how to define an adjective in technical writing, e.g. mathematical writing. Here we use "said to be" and "called" to mean "defined to be."
    – hunter
    Feb 8, 2014 at 15:40
  • Then the definition is: The object is called a saturated spooky-graphoid when ...
    – mplungjan
    Feb 8, 2014 at 15:41
  • In mathematical writing, we often say: A (noun that can potentially have property p) is called (adjective that we just made up) if it has property p. I believe this is what OP is asking.
    – hunter
    Feb 8, 2014 at 15:43
  • Name versus property
    – mplungjan
    Feb 8, 2014 at 15:45

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