1. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Numbers with decimals spelled out with dashes?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lostinwebspace, Oct 18, 2011.

    Do we put dashes in "Decimaled" numbers such as this? "one-point-one," "one-point-two," "zero-point-eight," "zero-point-zero-eight," etc. Or are they "one point one," "one point two," "zero point eight," "zero point zero eight"...

    These are in dialog, so I can't use digits. And I don't want to approximate because it says something about the character when he speaks in precise numbers. (Also, that last one is a blood/alcohol level, and it's pretty inexact to say "somewhere below one percent.")
     
  2. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Personally, I wouldn't use hyphens, but I've been unable to find a rule to explain it either way. My logic here is that the word "and" is often times meant to be the decimal point in a number. "One hundred and three" technically should be 100.3. However, that idea goes out the window in dialogue when people say "One hundred and three" and mean 103, so it is sometimes needed to end with an ordinal number (i.e., one hundred and three tenths). Again, that sounds awkward in dialogue. But my point here is that you do not hyphenate the "and," so I don't think you would need to hyphenate the "point," "dot," etc. So, "one point two one five" or "zero point three" would be fine.

    There is another rule with this, and that is numbers less than one usually start with a zero. So 0.25 would be preferable to .25. There are exceptions to this, like in the case you are talking about the caliber of a bullet or gun (e.g., .22-caliber). And keeping the zero won't always translate to how people may say it in dialogue either. I think a person is as likely to say "zero dot three" as they are to say "point five." I think there is also a degree of consistency that is lost when dealing with dialogue and numerals in general.

    Really hope that's not too confusing. :)

    Furthermore, Chicago Style's general rule of thumb with numerals and dialogue is, "Spell out numbers in dialogue whenever it can be done without awkwardness. Years, for example, are better rendered as numerals." So if you deem these numerals too awkward to spell out, especially if you have something like 0.7428, then it would be best to use numerals instead of words in dialogue.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Leave the hyphens out.

    Raki, I've never heard of the word "and" meaning a decimal point. "One hundred and three" does NOT mean 100.3 in any scheme I've ever heard of. "One hundred and three" means 103.

    I was trained as an engineer. I agree with you, Raki, that numbers less than one should start with zero. "Zero point two five" is preferable to "point two five." The reasoning was that, back in the days of blueprints and bad photocopies of drawings, the decimal point would often be so small it would disappear. The zero was necessary to emphasize that the number was 0.25 and not 25.

    Also, no engineer or scientist will say something like "one point thirty seven." They'd say "one point three seven." That's an important distinction. How would you say 1.10? Would you say "One point ten?" What if it was written as 1.100, which is more precise, but basically the same number? Would you say "one point one hundred?" "One point ten" and "one point one hundred" sound like very different numbers, but they aren't. This is why we say "one point one zero", or, if we're being more precise, "one point one zero zero." It just makes things clearer, and, if you're writing about engineers and scientists, it sounds more professional.
     
  4. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    "One hundred three" is correct for 103. There is no need for the "and". Think about money: you have one hundred dollars and twenty-five cents.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The "and" is needed in British English -- and I'm pretty sure it doesn't stand for a decimal point in any variety of English. If you were offered a hundred and three dollars and got $100.30 you were short changed two dollars seventy. If you got $100.03 you were short changed two dollars ninety-seven. Pleasure doing business with you!
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was trained in engineering too, and I agree that in writing numbers (just) less than one would always have the leading zero, but spoken there's no real chance of the 'point' being lost so i would often hear "point three seven" and such like.
    Be careful of using the CMS for creative writing; it's more about academic and journalistic writing, and spelling out numbers in dialog is one of the places I would go against CMS. After all, although you and I would say "nought point seven four two eight", somebody might equally well say "nought decimal seven four two eight", and somebody else might say "nought point seven thousand four hundred and twenty-eight" and that would tell us something about them.
     
  7. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    It is not needed in American English. It can be used as such, but it is not needed. And I must say, it would look rather ridiculous to put them in each of the places that could use them (e.g., one million and three hundred and twelve thousand and four hundred and eighty-three, when it could just be one million three hundred twelve thousand four hundred eighty-three). How do you write your checks? Another thing to note, "one hundred and three" and "one hundred three" are not the same thing. When you use "and" in "one hundred and three dollars," you have two numbers, not just one. You have "one hundred" and you have "three." Combined, they equal "one hundred three." In this regard, "and" is working much like "plus" would be (i.e., one hundred plus three dollars). However, note that the use of "and" makes my above example of 1,312,483 incorrect. If you look at it closely, the total of the first part of that example is 1,012,873 (quite a large difference). And if "and" should not be used between three hundred and twelve thousand (which is technically 12,300 and not 312,000), why would it be used between four hundred and eighty-three (speaking strictly of writing the numerals out in words, ignore the variations dialogue allows it)?

    I will say that my first post was erroneous (i.e., "one hundred and three" is not 100.3, but "one hundred dollars and three cents" is $100.03). "Often times" is probably too much, too, and certainly "and" doesn't qualify as "point" or "dot" or whatever. It means "in addition to," so to work as a decimal, the following integers would need to be labeled for what they were (i.e., one hundred and three tenths or one hundred dollars and thirty cents). Of course, I didn't say using "and" was a rule of any kind. My point about it wasn't about it being used as a decimal, but that it doesn't require hyphens, per the OP asking, when it is used as such. Perhaps the logic surrounding that is wrong, since "and" is "in addition to" and not "part of," so if you used "point" or "dot" or whatever, it might require hyphens. I still don't think it would, but thoughts?

    I agree, the decimal won't be lost in words, but if the character says "zero point whatever," then you do include the "zero."

    If the actual number is important (and awkward in words), I agree with CMOS that it is better to use numerals. If the way a person says it is more important than the number (and the number is awkward in words), then write it in words. That's logic. In the end, regardless of rules and styles, clarity is key. As a writer, your goal is to relay to the reader what you want them to see and know. Personally, I'd be better equipped to remember 451.325 than four hundred fifty-one point three two five or four fifty-one dot three hundred twenty-five. I'd be less equipped to know how a person said "451.325" if numerals were used.

    Which style guide(s) would you recommend? CMOS covers academic, journalistic, and creative writing, though it is a bit limited with all three at times. There are definitely a few things I do not agree with it about, but it does have its uses.
     
  8. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    It would depend on the situation. Is the guy talking an engineer? Because then maybe he would talk like that. I would probably say "one point one" either way. You would never say one point one hundred ever IMO... but more to the point, there really isn't a point to referring to 1.100. In speech the extra zeros don't mean anything. However, if it's something like 1.37... I imagine half of people would say "one point three seven" and the other half would say "one point thirty seven". It just depends on how the person saying the words feels like phrasing it. Both are grammatically correct. Maybe if one of the characters was supposed to be trained as an engineer, it might be more correct to have them pronounce it like that. But then again, as a reader I can't see any engineers going "I'm not buying this character because he didn't say 1.37 correctly".
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In British English it would be "one million three hundred and twelve thousand four hundred and eighty-three". We only put "and" before tens and units (in each group, so that "twelve" counts as units in the thousands group), but we have to put it there.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't use hyphens, either... and would remove them if editing a work done that way...
     
  11. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Thanks, everyone. I got rid of the dashes (well, one was part of a compound adjective so I had to leave them in there). Makes more sense now. In fact, the more I look at some of these numbers in written form, the more comfortable I am with them.

    I'd agree with this. I always thought of clarity as the chief rule above all else. I felt like my eyes were going to hurt when I read over some numbers that were spelled out. My brain was trying to take in the enormity of some numbers when digits would have done just fine. I don't want a read to feel the same thing when reading my stuff.

    Edit: What section of CMOS did you find that in, Raki? I looked but couldn't find anything.
     
  12. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    That particular quote came from their online Q&A (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/Numbers/Numbers12.html). They have a section in the CMOS that touches on when to spell out and when not to, but it drifts away from dialogue usage and focuses on other aspects, at least in my edition.
     

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