What is the best method of listing specific characteristics when writing scientifically. My example:

The study sites range in area from 1000 m² to 1200 m², cover depths of 0.08 to 5.7 m, range in altitude from 0 to 100 m, and span latitudes of between −40 to 50 °N.

Note that XX here is a variable name.

I am not convinced that I am writing this in the best possible way. For example, am I using cover, range, span in the correct way here? Is there a specific rule to follow in scientific writing?

  • 2
    I feel like a math student, trying to find XX :(
    – oerkelens
    May 6, 2014 at 15:17
  • I really do not understand what you are asking.
    – tchrist
    May 6, 2014 at 17:05
  • Note that XX where? It's not mentioned anywhere else. Sep 10, 2015 at 9:19

3 Answers 3


It is not the sites which 'range' but their areas, depths, elevations, altitudes and latitudes.

And a site spanning 90 degrees of latitude would have to be quite narrow to cover only 1200 m2!

I would write:

The study sites vary between 1000m2 and 1200m2 in area, between 0.08m and 5.7m in depth, and between 0m and 100m in elevation, and lie in latitudes between 40°S and 50°N.


If you mean that the sites range in area from X to Y, range in size from A to B, range in depth from C to D, just write

The study sites range in area from 1000 to 1200 m^2, in depth from 0.08 to 5.7 m, in altitude from 0 to 100 m and ...

(well, you'll have to finish the sentence yourself, I'm not sure if some of the sites are at latitude -40 and some at + 50 or if one (or more) site covers that whole range of latitudes).

Using 'range', 'cover', and 'span' looks, to this reader, like unnecessary variation inspired by a reluctance to use 'range' repeatedly. Fair enough, but you don't need to repeat it.


I'd be inclined to use bullet points, as follows:

Characteristics of the sites:

  • Area: 1000-2000 m^2
  • Depth: 0.08-5.7 m
  • Altitude: 0-100 m

This makes it easy for your readers to assimilate the information at a glance, and also avoids distracting you with the effort to get creative with your verbs.

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