Re: Use of Periods in Phone Numbers?

Subject: Re: Use of Periods in Phone Numbers?
From: Eric Haddock <eric -at- ENGAGENET -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1996 12:58:28 -0500

>The senior editor has
>instructed that all phone numbers are to be written "111.111.1111". I
>would prefer to see the more conventional style, "111-111-1111".

>My reasoning is that when you see a number with hyphens, you are
>more likely to think "phone number," whereas when you see one with
>periods, you could think "email address," "European number," or
>something else. It also seems rather trendy, something you'd see on a
>letterhead, but not in text--in other words, a design element.

Mmm, I'm not sure I buy that periods are just trendy. I've seen it for
such a long time it seems and in so many different places. When does
something go from trendy to not? I'm not sure.

But design element status doesn't matter because you're putting out a
newsletter--which should be a happy home for design elements.

A part of my brain told me that it doesn't use periods or hyphens to
indicate phone numbers--it's the number of numbers and their grouping (and
context) which says "phone number" more than anything else. If you used
spaces instead of periods or hyphens, I'd still know it was a phone number
because phone numbers are always grouped the same. In light of that, it
doesn't matter what's used to set the 3-3-4 group apart, just so they are.

>the more conventional style, "111-111-1111"

To be honest, I don't recall having seen that style before. Doesn't mean
I haven't, just that it never made an impression on me. Here are the ones I
do remember:

(111) 111-1111

Of these, I like periods the best because no number has an element that
could be mistaken for a period and vice versa. The hyphen, for example, can
look like the middle horizontal bar on a "3" or "4" and a slash can look
like a "7" and parentheses take too long to type so they're right out. <g>
The period, though, is definitely the one.

I also think the period is a substitute for a different kind of design
element. Ideally, there should be a small dot raised off the baseline to
about the middle to separate the groups of numbers. That's what I do when I
write phone numbers by hand. But, since there isn't a key or shift-key
combination for such a character, I (and others I'm guessing) use periods
instead. Like using "1/2" instead of a proper fraction character or arrangement.
Just an idle theory.

/`-_ Eric Haddock ------
{ }/ Technical writer
\ | Engage Networks, Inc. -----
\__*| located in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, WI

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