Let's say that for some math article there's a concept that is used many times, but the author does not know a standard name for this concept, if it exists. The author creates a name for this concept. How should the definition be written like? Op has considered the following possibilities:

  1. Definition: Something that satisfies some properties will be called <name>
  1. Definition: Something that satisfies some properties is called <name>

The first one sounds more correct to me, as that thing will be called by that name in the current article; however when op reads math texts, the second one seems more common.

  • You seem to answer your own question. When the option #2 is used, do authors invent the name, or just use an already well-established name?
    – Alexander
    Nov 1, 2021 at 19:02
  • @Alexander that's the problem, it's not common in texts i read for authors to invent names. So i don't know what's the best practice in that case. Nov 1, 2021 at 19:18
  • I think it's common enough to invent names for a new concept or phenomena identified in one's work. Is your concern that you are not the first one to identify such concept?
    – Alexander
    Nov 2, 2021 at 17:12
  • It's not uncommon to have a paragraph dedicated to definitions. It could be in tabular format, removing your problem altogether.
    – Mast
    Nov 3, 2021 at 20:39

3 Answers 3


In a paper, you qualify any term you invent to be specifically within that paper. If other people adopt your terminology they will refer to your paper.

For example:

[some discussion of the distinctions that lead to a new definition] Herein, we will refer to this property of vector sets as "pseudo-orthogonality".

"Herein" means just in this paper. And then continue your discussion using the term pseudo-orthogonality.

If I need your result, I will cite your paper and its definition of the term in my paper. So I will say

We use the concept of pseudo-orthogonality as defined in [1].

Then my reference is

[1] Carla-Display, "The Clown Murder of Non-Prime Extracts of Large Numbers", Journal of Approximating Numbering Systems, v7.38, 2022, pp 3-11.

Or something like that.

Don't say "will be called", don't say "is called."

Don't raise any expectation your new terminology will be used anywhere else but within your paper.

It is up to other researchers to decide to use your terminology. You should do some due diligence in reading to ensure you are not renaming a known property; thinking you invented it is not enough itself, you want to be sure you did not re-invent it.

It is up to your reviewers to call you out if you have inadvertently done that. And by restricting the use of your definition just to within your own paper, it is still understandable even if you, your peer reviewers and the editor all failed to realize you re-named a known property.

Future lecturers or textbooks will say

What Carla-Display calls "pseudo-orthogonality" was first described in 2021 by Hurling-Cat as "proximate-orthogonality".


Perhaps the second reason is more preferred in textbooks is because it seems more confident in its definition. By using "will be," it's saying what's going to happen (a little more wishy-washy), instead of just doing it.

  • 1
    I'm going to leave this open for now, but you really need a little more substance for a good answer. This comes off more like a comment.
    – DWKraus
    Dec 18, 2021 at 2:56

The tense tells the reader whether you are borrowing a previous concept, or making up a new one.

The basics

Borrowing a previous concept

{name} is a concept that is already present in recent literature.

{name} is {description} ({cite the source}).

Making up a new concept

{description} will be referred to as {name} for the remainder of the article.

Note the will be as it is from that point on that this entity is going to be known with such a name.

Note also that use of passive forms tend to be clunky, harder to read and often frowned upon in an academic English setting.


If the new entity is the core of your work, then be clear about it. You could, for instance, open with

We introduce {name-of-entity}, {description}

If you are just packaging a set of definitions to avoid having to repeat it, state it clearly:

Let a {name-of-entity} be {description}

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