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A question for American people (English people are welcomed as well but I guess their use of English is more formal): do you use ceteris paribus in some formal text? If not, what would be the best alternative?

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about English. Aug 30, 2013 at 12:45
  • I can say that it isn't among the Latin phrases I commonly encounter in math or physics, but it could easily be used more in other circles. For example lawyers and biologists and doctors all have a lot of Latin words and phrases inherited into their professions. As for what to use instead, try simply its meaning: all else constant. Also, the context in which you would potentially use it would be helpful.
    – Walter
    Aug 30, 2013 at 14:17
  • @Walter: Not being much of a scientist, I could be mistaken here. But isn't it the case that the basic principle of "all else being equal" is central to theoretical physics today? "Fundamental symmetry principles dictate the basic laws of physics, control the stucture of matter, and define the fundamental forces in nature." says Leon M. Lederman, Nobel Laureate in physics. Doesn't "symmetry" there imply one "plane" of variability, with everything else remaining constant? Aug 30, 2013 at 15:21
  • @snailboat: Thanks, I'll keep an eye out. My favourite "all else being equal" is Feynman, at 54m 33s in Messenger Lecture 4 - Symmetry in Physical Law. He shows how if we communicate with an advanced alien, we might think we had a lot in common, since all our physical laws would seem to be the same. Except in principle the alien could be made of antimatter. If that particular ET ever came to visit Earth, and copied our "greeting handshake" by extending his left hand, we'd soon find out we weren't quite the same! Aug 30, 2013 at 17:41
  • @FumbleFingers Yes it is a definitely a central principle, but even so I've not encountered the Latin phrase often (just once as an undergrad, and only a couple times since then), which leads me to believe that it isn't commonly in the active vocabulary in these fields.
    – Walter
    Sep 2, 2013 at 8:15

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Ceteris paribus today is scholarly jargon. In my academic LitCrit days I used it freely.

Today, when I write primarily for business audiences or corporate websites, I do not. Instead I say “all else being equal”.

I might use it if I were addressing an audience of lawyers, whose training obliges them to be familiar with many older usages; but I would advise them not to use it in contracts.

I would not follow a different practice if I were writing for British audiences.

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  • I didn't know the term until now - but this NGram suggests it's become much more popular since the 60s/70s. And comparing US/UK corpora on that link, it seems Brits use it more than twice as often as Americans. Whatever - my impression is it's not so much an "older usage" that might be necessary for lawyers & such. It looks much more like a "neo-intellectual" usage to me. I think I'll stick with “all else being equal”, thanks! Aug 30, 2013 at 12:44
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    @FumbleFingers I'm pretty sure what your NGram shows is the post-WWII GI-Bill-fueled surge in academic publishing. The peak is exactly when we 1st-generation Baby Boomers finished our doctorates and came out into a saturated market! Aug 30, 2013 at 13:16
  • @ StoneyB: I think that's what I meant. It's not really an old "legal/lawyerly" term - rather something that's been embraced by modern academia. Interestingly, this mid-1700s reference says that (then, at least) it was often used by mathematical and physical writers. I've no idea if it's more common in the arts than sciences today (if it cropped up in my LitCrit studies in the early 1970s, I obviously didn't notice it! :) Aug 30, 2013 at 15:11
  • Ceteris paribus is often used in academic economics. As you mention, it is usually better to translate it to "all else being equal" or "other things being equal" or "holding everything else the same".
    – Jasper
    Oct 1, 2014 at 21:57

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