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I'm new to English writing and, unfortunately, I cannot even find words to describe the problem properly (I guess there would be a special name for this issue). I wrote a sentence "[...] the assessment of alpha-diversity only requires the distinction between, but not the identification of species" but I am not sure whether this is clear and correct or it would be preferable to wrap the "what it is not"-part (I want to highlight what it is not about, however just slightly ;D) in em dashes. I'm also not sure about the necessity of the "but". But then, should lots of dashes even be used in scientific writing? So, what's the most appropriate version?

  1. [...] requires the distinction between, but not the identification of species
  2. [...] requires the distinction between—but not the identification of—species
  3. [...] requires the distinction between—not the identification of—species
  • Hi Manuel! I think both #2 and #3 are grammatically correct, but #2 is the most pleasing in terms of sounding like natural English. I would personally go with that one. Alternatively, if you'd like a different flow, you could say: "the assessment of alpha-diversity requires the distinction between species, but not necessarily the identification of said species." This clarifies the grammatical structure of the sentence a bit more in my opinion, but again, it is all a personal choice. I hope that helps! – Sciborg Aug 5 '20 at 11:45
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    This appears to be 3 questions - all are good, but I feel that the main question is better suited to English Language Learners or English Language & Usage, since it is about grammar and syntax rules (specifically subordinate/dependent clauses), as also the secondary question regarding "but". The tertiary question, about the use of em-dash in scientific writing, most certainly is on topic here though, and probably deserves its own post :) – Chronocidal Aug 5 '20 at 12:16
  • Who migrated that from SE Writing seems to be dodging the issue. Other than personal choice of style, there is no useful difference in those three examples. If there were a problem, would that not more likely be using "… requires the…" rather than "… a distinction…"? Come to that, what would be wrong with "… only requires distinction between, not identification of species"? I suggest this is wholly about style, and clearly does belong to SE Writing – Robbie Goodwin Aug 7 '20 at 0:01

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