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Old 01-14-2020, 10:10 AM
JcWoman is offline
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Why are numbers shown two ways in some types of documentation?


Some formal styles of document have this convention where numbers are spelled and then the number itself is shown in parenthesis after that. I've often wondered why that is. For example, "there are five (5) cases in this study".

Is it assumed that the reader is too stupid to know what "five" means? Is this convention overused and that's why it jumps out at me as being silly?

Last edited by JcWoman; 01-14-2020 at 10:10 AM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:21 AM
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This is quite common in legal documents - and I believe it is done there for a couple of reasons; firstly to combine ease of reading with absolute and precise certainty - numerals are for convenience, words are for precision, but also, because writing the value twice in two forms makes it a little safer against error or tampering.

I use a similar convention when I am announcing system downtime; I typically use 24 hour clock in the subject and 12 hour plus AM/PM in the message body - this might seem like it would confuse people, but in fact the opposite it true - it makes people stop and understand.
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Old 01-14-2020, 10:26 AM
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There are conventions about when to spell out a number versus using the digit. The "Gregg Reference Manual" is one common guide. But I didn't find anything in there about when to write numbers with both the word and the digit like you referenced.

A writer may use a digit to make it very easy to spot when scanning the text. It's easier to spot the "5" in the text than the word "five". The writer may be putting the digit in there so the reader can quickly determine the number of cases in the study.

Another possibility is that it's used to distinguish that it's not a single thing called a "five case". Like:

- There are things things called cases, and the study had five of them
versus
- There is this thing called a "five case", and there were a bunch of them in the study

Having the number designation like "five (5) cases" makes it clear which situation is being referenced.

Last edited by filmore; 01-14-2020 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 01-14-2020, 12:00 PM
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Discussed on these forums almost twenty (20) years ago.

The best answer is given by Spoke:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spoke View Post
Yep, it's us hidebound lawyers at work again.

The use of parenthetical numbers is an historical holdover from the days when legal documents were written out by hand. Of course , not everyone has the greatest handwriting in the world, so it became customary to both write out the number, and to use arabic numerals, to lessen the chance that a particular number might be read incorrectly. (This was particularly important in deeds, where the measure of one's real estate holdings were set out with verbal descriptions. Reading the footage incorrectly could cause some real problems--overlapping property lines, angry neighbors, misplaced spite fences, etc.)

You can also see the phenomenon on bank checks. When you write out a check, you give the amount both in arabic numerals and in "written out" form, to lessen the chance of an error in the amount paid.

In printed documents, I believe it's fair to say that the continued use of parenthetical arabic numerals is an anachronism.
Personally, I don't find it annoying and actually like the accuracy for the same reason you write out the numbers alphabetically on a check then numerically. Accuracy. If there's a large discrepancy and/or the numeric section isn't filled out on large amouints, the check may be rejected. If the discrepancy or cash amount is small, the written out amount will be likely be used and accepted.
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Old 01-14-2020, 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
If the discrepancy or cash amount is small, the written out amount will be likely be used and accepted.
That's how it's supposed to go, but in practice the Arabic numerals are typically followed.
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Old 01-15-2020, 04:36 AM
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You also have the problem that the (former) British scheme of naming numbers differs from the American scheme of naming numbers, and one or the other of these two schemes are used in countries around the world.

The spelled-out names of the numbers can be ambiguous. This begins to happen with larger numbers, starting around 109. The same numbers (as written with digits) can have different names, and the same written-out names can mean different numbers.

See Wikipedia article Long and Short Scales for discussion and examples. (I'm not giving examples here because I'll just get myself too confused. Read the Wiki at your own risk.)

I have read of lawsuits that revolved around contracts where the parties understood different meanings of the big-money amounts mentioned that they thought they had agreed to.
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Old 01-15-2020, 06:28 AM
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Under a million, Arabic numbers are fine when printed, but can be confused when written. The french cross the number 7 and a number 1 can easily look like a 7. The mathematicians on here may well follow the continental practice to avoid confusion when reading back notes etc. Many people also cross their 'Zs' for the same reason (a scribbled 'Z' looks very much like a '2').

Last edited by bob++; 01-15-2020 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 01-15-2020, 08:49 AM
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Thanks all. I like Spoke's explanation with the conclusion that it may be anachronistic, although I fully understand it's need in legal documents. But IMO, in software requirements documentation that I use it's likely just pretentiousness.
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Old 01-16-2020, 03:10 AM
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Back in the day there was a UK Saturday afternoon sports show called Grandstand. The final football scores would be shown coming in on a teleprinter, a sort of live feed of a typewriter. It would spell out the teams letter by letter. The scores would be the numerical digits.

Unless a team scored 6 or more. In this case the number would be shown in words as well e.g. "Manchester City 6 (six) Manchester United 0". It was rare a team would score 6 or more.
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:41 AM
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Confirming what I learned in college:

"Writing Numbers

Except for a few basic rules, spelling out numbers vs. using figures (also called numerals) is largely a matter of writers' preference. Again, consistency is the key.

Policies and philosophies vary from medium to medium. America's two most influential style and usage guides have different approaches: The Associated Press Stylebook recommends spelling out the numbers zero through nine and using numerals thereafter—until one million is reached. Here are four examples of how to write numbers above 999,999 in AP style: 1 million; 20 million; 20,040,086; 2.7 trillion.

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends spelling out the numbers zero through one hundred and using figures thereafter—except for whole numbers used in combination with hundred, thousand, hundred thousand, million, billion, and beyond (e.g., two hundred; twenty-eight thousand; three hundred thousand; one million). In Chicago style, as opposed to AP style, we would write four hundred, eight thousand, and twenty million with no numerals—but like AP, Chicago style would require numerals for 401; 8,012; and 20,040,086.

This is a complex topic, with many exceptions, and there is no consistency we can rely on among blogs, books, newspapers, and magazines. This chapter will confine itself to rules that all media seem to agree on."

Source: https://www.grammarbook.com/numbers/numbers.asp
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Old 01-16-2020, 11:56 AM
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Personally, I like and will continue to use the number name, numerical number convention. Especially with a lot of people's atrocious spelling (relying on spellcheck), abbreviations and seeming lack of reading comprehension "She had sex people at her party and none person got sick." Grammatical nonsense? Sure, but someone's going to write and read it that way.

Last edited by lingyi; 01-16-2020 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 01-16-2020, 12:07 PM
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I had a professor in law school who said it was archaic and we should never do it. Thirty-five (35) years later, lawyers are still doing it.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JcWoman View Post
Thanks all. I like Spoke's explanation with the conclusion that it may be anachronistic, although I fully understand it's need in legal documents. But IMO, in software requirements documentation that I use it's likely just pretentiousness.
Any time I see it, if not in a legal or governmental document, I consider the writer to be a blowhard. When assessing the writer's total works, I am usually not wrong.
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Old 01-16-2020, 01:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I had a professor in law school who said it was archaic and we should never do it. Thirty-five (35) years later, lawyers are still doing it.
Lawyers, of all people, are not strongly guided by logic. Seems illogical, doesn't it?
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Old 01-16-2020, 03:52 PM
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I heard null and void was used because one of them was used in France , the other in the UK. Can't recall which place used each one.
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Old 01-16-2020, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
I heard null and void was used because one of them was used in France , the other in the UK. Can't recall which place used each one.
Per a quick google search, Null comes from Old French and Void comes from Old English.

Also, ignorance fought!
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Old 01-16-2020, 09:07 PM
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Similarly I've used to differentiate a quantity of things named by number, probably becuase, well, engineers... "Install (3) #3awg and (1) #6awg ground." "install three #3awg and one #6awg ground" or similar.
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Old 01-17-2020, 09:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahu View Post
Back in the day there was a UK Saturday afternoon sports show called Grandstand. The final football scores would be shown coming in on a teleprinter, a sort of live feed of a typewriter. It would spell out the teams letter by letter. The scores would be the numerical digits.

Unless a team scored 6 or more. In this case the number would be shown in words as well e.g. "Manchester City 6 (six) Manchester United 0". It was rare a team would score 6 or more.
Oh, that brings back memories! I was never interested in football my whole life, but my parents used to have the football scores on the TV on Saturday afternoon to check if they had won the pools. I was fascinated by the sight and sound of the teleprinter buzzing and clicking away while we ate tea
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Old 01-17-2020, 09:57 AM
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Many years ago I had a business loan that my partner and I were personally liable. Under the terms of the loan, our spouses needed to get independent legal advice and sign the paperwork. The lawyer she saw pointed out that there was a difference in the loan value - "Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($50,000)" and at common law, they could only enforce the covenant on the lower amount. We did not bother to point out the discrepancy to the bank, but we weren't planning on (and didn't) default.
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Old 01-17-2020, 05:05 PM
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Then there is Lets eat granny, or lets eat, granny.
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Old 01-17-2020, 09:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Lawyers, of all people, are not strongly guided by logic. Seems illogical, doesn't it?
Not to me—I’d argue that lawyers and judges are guided by precedent more than pure reason.

(Still, I take your point).
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Old 01-18-2020, 11:21 AM
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The other day, I was watching an old episode of Shark Tank and one the business owners said he was offered eight figures for his company and it was a multimillion dollar deal. Ummm...counts on fingers...yep, a million is seven figures, so 8 would be...OH it is multiple millions, like ummm...at least ten!

Note, I fought the urge to had the numerals in parentheses!

Last edited by lingyi; 01-18-2020 at 11:23 AM.
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