APS News

Letters to the Editor

A Question About Tenure...

I have a question about the tenure system. It is generally held that the creative period of a physicist's career ends at a very young age (Alan Lightman, for example, has mentioned the age of 35 as a point where he in particular felt "past his prime"). Yet most physicists do not get tenure until their mid-thirties, at least.

Why, then, do we have a tenure system which supports the creative work of people whose period of creativity has ended? Wouldn't it be better to put our resources into supporting the research of more young physicists, who are in the prime of their careers, and cannot get academic jobs in the current economic climate?

Brett Bochner
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Some Style Points for Writing

I have some additional specific points to add to the article, "Some Simple Rules for Writing (APS News, June 1998), since Barbara Levi covered the generalities. Please publish a retraction of (1) split infinitives to better see, to consistently follow; (2) implied split infinitives to...drastically rephrase, to...completely drop; (3) awhile; (4) number mismatches we...emulate the style of our favorite author, each of us has to hone our own understanding. Dr. Levi's article was good on the literary aspects. APS has lots of guidelines on the technical aspects. Unfortunately all warnings against student mistakes have disappeared from grammar school.

Fred Ordway
Bethesda, Maryland

Barbara Levi replies:

It was bound to happen! In my preaching about "Some Simple Rules of Writing," I have committed a few sins. I readily confess to transgressions 3 and 4 on Ordways list, but I have to defend some of my split infinitives (items 1 and 2). I cite The Elements of Style, which states (on page 78) that some infinitives improve on being split. A good guideline, I feel, is to split an infinitive if doing so results in a more felicitous voice or a clearer meaning. Accordingly, in two of the cases Ordway spotted (item 1), I would have done better not to have allowed the split.

I thank Mr. Ordway for his vigilence. I'm glad to know there are people like him who really care about the proper use of grammar

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin