Re: Periods After Whole Numbers etc.

Subject: Re: Periods After Whole Numbers etc.
From: Ian White <ian -at- IFWTECH -dot- DEMON -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 1996 14:25:34 +0100

Nancy McGuire wrote:

>As for the use of a decimal point after a whole number, this is common
>practice in the sciences when you want to indicate that a number is, for
>example, exactly 200 (measured to the nearest whole unit), and you are not
>just using 200 as a nice round number.

This arises from computer programming, where many languages make an
important distinction between integer numbers and so-called "real"
numbers. Only "real" numbers can have a fractional part, and even if
there is no trailing fractional part the decimal point is sometimes
mandatory. It thus becomes important to develop the habit of writing
"200." unless you specifically mean the integer 200, and no doubt this
carries over into written English.

Programming languages often do contaminate written English. In one
software manual written by the creator of the program, every sentence
that begins with "If" contains a matching "then", and there are even a
few examples of "If... then... else..."

Maybe we should all run our work through a program compiler as well as
the usual spelling and grammar checkers?

Ian White | IFW Technical Services, Abingdon, England
| Clear English for high-technology companies

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