I am writing a survey paper in computer science, where I frequently use the sentence:

....videos that are taken from uncalibrated monocular moving cameras....

In long sentences, the above phrase makes the meaning very complex. I found in some papers:

....uncalibrated monocular moving videos....

Although this phrase is not literally correct (because the adjectives should describe the camera, not the videos), it is widely used. I would like to know, whether this usage is OK in order to make the sentences shorter.

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    Words are what people understand them as. I know nothing about this specific situation, but I think that's the most important rule to go by.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 22:14
  • @BryanKrause Do you take that approach to a contract? Is it acceptable for the two parties to understand the terms differently?
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 4:54
  • @JessicaB My point is that if people use a term commonly and it isn't likely to cause confusion, it doesn't matter much if the construction taken out of context loses meaning. It has sufficient meaning within that context. I doubt "uncalibrated monocular moving videos" would be misunderstood by anyone familiar with the OP's context, and it solves a problem that there is no simplified construct in English for "videos taken from".
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 6:46
  • And I take the approach to contracts of puzzlement: how did language that is supposed to be precise and understandable become so completely unintelligible by people without legal training. If legal documents are the result of avoiding "abuse of language" then I would much prefer to abuse language.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 6:49
  • @BryanKrause My question is not about the misunderstanding of the sentence, and I mentioned that I found it used in several papers. Explicitly, I am asking how to keep the sentence fully correct in both senses technical and linguistic.
    – Yacine
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 9:11

1 Answer 1


In mathematics we frequently create new meanings for phrases. The key point is that we explicitly state what we are doing (in theory at least).

So put somewhere early on put in something like

For the sake of brevity, we will abuse terminology by referring to videos that are taken from uncalibrated monocular moving cameras as 'uncalibrated monocular moving videos'.

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    Personally I'd take out the "abuse terminology" here. This sentence defines the terminology (and apparently it's even standard terminology, per the question). Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 15:23
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    @DanielR.Collins You can if you like. But it remains an abuse of language, whether commonly used or otherwise, and the point of the question is that this bothers the OP. Often when it's written in maths papers I have to pause to remember why it's technically wrong, as I'm so used to identifying the two objects.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 4:48

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