Degrees F/C Conversion

Subject: Degrees F/C Conversion
From: Rick Lippincott <RJLIPPINCOTT -at- DELPHI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 1994 21:55:54 -0400

Concerning C/F temperature conversions, Karen Kay writes:

I don't disagree with this generalization, but I think you have chosen a
pretty poor example. Converting from C to F and vice-versa is just NOT that
useful. Well, maybe if you're using a foreign cookbook, providing you don't
have the ballpark number for that food in your head...

With all due respect, I disagree with your response. Although, apparently in
your specific area of tech writing this conversion is not often used, in
other areas it is used daily.

My first reaction (and I've been wrong before) is that you most likely are a
software tech writer, and are not used to working with hardware. I've
assumed this because often in hardware tech writing, temperatures are very
important -- and the product may be sold in the international market.

The source materials for manuals I write often includes blueprints.(CAD or
hand-drawn, I'm going to probably call them "blueprints" until the day I
die.) Specific temperature related information on the blueprints is normally
presented in Fahrenheit, only. As a result, I've often got to take the
Fahrenheit temperature and provide a Celsius alternative.

Computers, of course, work best when kept in specific temperature and humidity
ranges. You know that, of course, so I need not elaborate on why you'd place
both temperatures in an operating manual.

And once you move away from computers, into "heavy metal" operations,
temperatures can become even more critical. Whether it is the process
temperature of a plasma beam in an ion injector, ambient air temperature
during desert or arctic operations of aircraft, or test cell temperature
readings on a gas turbine engine (I've worked on manuals for all of these),
it may be critical to clearly communicate temperatures to the audience.
Again, these products may be sold on international markets. Lockheed,
Boeing, and Mac D supply aircraft all over the world. I'm sure you'll agree
it the tech writer's responsibly to provide accurate data in the manuals,
and thus the U.S. tech writers must supply temperatures in both Fahrenheit
and Celsius. (The engineering data, typically, only provides data in

I have to agree with you on one point, I've never written in a manual anything
that would remotely look like "At -40 degrees, the Fahrenheit and Celsius
temperatures are equal." On the other hand, it's a nice handy rule to keep
temperatures straight. We all know, of course, that 100 C is hotter than 100
F, and -4 C is warmer than -4F. Now, without doing the math, which is
colder: -50 C, or -50 F? Since I have that "-40" trivia in my head, I know
without looking it up that the C temperature is colder. The company I
currently work for builds equipment utilizing cryogenic vacuum pumps, and I
deal with temperatures in Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. I've got to know
where the numbers lie in relation to each other.

In short, while I have drawn the conclusion that this type of conversion is
not useful to you, I respectfully suggest you carefully choose your words
before making a generalization such as "Converting from C to F and
vice-versa is just NOT that useful."

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