Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication Part 4 – Numbers (2)
Common Mistakes in Papers for Publication is a series within the Bite-sized Tips series.
In the first and second instalments, I presented some common errors I find in the academic papers I revise or edit. Although they are generally made by non-native speakers of English in the texts I see, a lot of them can trip us up as well, especially as there are often differences between US and UK usage and everything can become quite muddled.
In the third instalment I looked at some issues with numbers. As it’s a vast, complicated area and lots of mistakes crop up, I’ve divided the focus on numbers into three parts. This is the second of those parts on dates and currencies.
1. Perhaps one of the best-known differences between US and UK English is how dates are written.
3 May 2020 =UK English. No commas.
May 3, 2020 = US English. Note the comma between the numbers.
If we add the specific day to the date, we get:
Sunday, 3 May 2020 =UK English. Comma after the day.
Sunday, May 3, 2020 = US English. Commas after the day and between the numbers.
All-figure versions of dates shouldn’t be used in running text, especially because of the confusion that can result between US and other versions of English. However, they may appear in notes and references.
UK English = 3/5/20 or 3/5/2020 or 3.5.20 or 3.5.2020 (i.e. you can use slashes or points but not hyphens)
US English = 5/3/20 or 5/3/2020 (i.e. use slashes but not points or hyphens)
Instead of the above, you could follow ISO standard 8601, which has been devised by the International Organization for Standardization to eliminate ambiguity.
ISO dates are expressed as follows: YYYY-MM-DD. Consequently, the date I’ve used in all my examples would be as follows:
ISO = 2020-05-03 (note that hyphens are used, but not points or slashes)
Click here for abbreviations of days and months.
2. Currencies. According to Oxford, you can spell out amounts of money in words (e.g. thirty-two pounds), but the currency symbol and numerals are more usual (e.g. £32).
However, usage depends on how large the number is. Millions and above combine symbol, number and word (e.g. €73 million). And in financial contexts, the same applies for thousands (e.g. $8 thousand).
The story in Chicago is slightly different. As we saw in point 1 of the previous post on numbers, Chicago prefers numbers to be spelled out zero through one hundred, and the same principle applies to currencies, but only if it is an isolated reference. Above one hundred, Chicago tells us to use the symbol and number (e.g. one hundred dollars but $101).
According to Chicago, millions and above combine symbol, number and word as in Oxford (e.g. $47 billion). And in some financial contexts, thousands can be represented by K (e.g. $960K).
As in the above examples, symbols are placed before the number with no space (i.e. £ 345.78) is not correct).
The international standard three-letter code (ISO 4217), for example USD, EUR and GBP, is also placed before the number, but with a space (e.g. EUR 15,008.34).
Both Oxford and Chicago agree that 00 should only be added to the number after a decimal point if the context in which it appears contains other fractional amounts.
For example we should write:
£17 if this amount appears on its own or with other whole numbers,
£17.00 if it appears with another fractional amount
(e.g. The dress cost £23.99 and the top had been reduced to £17.00)
Amounts in pence, cents, etc. should be written like this:
48p or 32¢
£0.48 or $0.32
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