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putting a zero ahead of a decimal point.... cultural differences

Posted By: Nack Ballard
Date: Wednesday, 5 May 2010, at 6:19 a.m.

In Response To: putting a zero ahead of a decimal point.... cultural differences (mtuhtan)

In the U.S., we also (optionally) put a zero before the decimal, though there has been a major shift towards omitting it in the last thirty or forty years. (Old timers like me might also remember our teachers harping on us to double-space after periods and colons; now, single-spacing is standard.)

In the 14th edition of the CMS (Chicago Manual of Style, kindly sent to me by Bill Davis), on pp. 299-300 it states:

"If the quantity never exceeds 1.00, as in probabilities, levels of significance, correlation, coefficients, factor loadings, and so forth, no zero is used.

Examples: (1) p < .05 ... (2) R = .10

When decimal fractions appear in humanistic contexts, the distinction above is seldom observed:

Examples: (1) The average number of children born to college graduates dropped from 2.3 to .95 per couple. (2) Last season Mendoza batted .327. (3) On retirement Boyer destroyed his .38 police special and his .22-caliber single-shot rifle."

I leave off zeros before decimal points when writing equities for early game moves, especially relative equities (error sizes). A play that is worth mentioning might be worse than another by .005, or .027, or even higher than .100 (whopper) on occasion, but never over 1 (!), not even close. This is an informal application of the "If the quantity never exceeds 1.00..." concept quoted above from CMS. While it is acceptable, of course, to add the pre-point 0, IMO it is immense overkill; the extra zeros clutter the page and make it more difficult to inspect and compare numbers.

As you say, commas are used (in lieu of decimal points) in Europe, though this passage provides additional information that may interest you:

"In older British practice the decimal point was a raised dot; that style is sometimes still used by conservative writers. In Continental practice the decimal point is represented by a comma."

I infer (possibly erroneously) that the decimal point is more widely used worldwide than the comma.

Nack

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