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Inches-to-cms conversion: what is acceptable?
Thread poster: Macià Falgàs i Planas
Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:23
English to Catalan
+ ...
Apr 4, 2008

I have the following question:

To what level of accuracy do you make a conversion from inches-to-cms?

Let's suppose that 9.1 inches are 23.114 cms. Would you leave all the decimals? Would 23.15 be right? (omiting one decimal) Would 23.1 be acceptable? From what point can a conversion like this be considered to be wrong?

I am talking about furniture.


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 12:23
Spanish to English
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Equivalent Apr 4, 2008

A length given as 9.1 inches has been rounded off to one decimal. All we know is that it is greater than or equal to 9.05 inches and less than 9.15 inches.

Converting, the length is greater than or equal to 22.987 cm and less than 23.241 cm.

Thus the most accuracy you can give it is 23 cm.

If, however, it was given as 9.10 inches, it would be greater or equal to 9.095 inches (23.1013 cm) and less than 9.105 inches (23.1267 cm) and so you could accurately say it was 23.1 cm.


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Krzysztof Łesyk  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 02:23
Japanese to English
+ ...
Other option Apr 4, 2008

I might (and sometimes do, too) use a different route - how about leaving the original dimensions in inches and putting the converted ones in parentheses? 9.1″ (approx. 23cm). This way anyone reading the text can convert it themselves if the accuracy you provide is insufficient.

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Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:23
English to Catalan
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
But it is writen like this Apr 4, 2008

GoodWords wrote:

A length given as 9.1 inches has been rounded off to one decimal. All we know is that it is greater than or equal to 9.05 inches and less than 9.15 inches.

Converting, the length is greater than or equal to 22.987 cm and less than 23.241 cm.

Thus the most accuracy you can give it is 23 cm.

If, however, it was given as 9.10 inches, it would be greater or equal to 9.095 inches (23.1013 cm) and less than 9.105 inches (23.1267 cm) and so you could accurately say it was 23.1 cm.


Thank you very much for your reply.

I understand your point, and actually I agree with it. However, my client could say "No, it is writen as "9.1 inches", therefore it can't be 9.06 inches. If it was 9.06, it would have been written like this."

(he actually considered this to be a mistake)


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Macià Falgàs i Planas  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:23
English to Catalan
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good option Apr 4, 2008

Krzysztof Łesyk wrote:

I might (and sometimes do, too) use a different route - how about leaving the original dimensions in inches and putting the converted ones in parentheses? 9.1″ (approx. 23cm). This way anyone reading the text can convert it themselves if the accuracy you provide is insufficient.


Good option. However, the text I was translating was for Spain, where the inch system is not used, so I considered there was no use in including the original dimenions in inches (moreover, I was not supposed to make my translation too long).


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 12:23
Spanish to English
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Tact needed when client mistaken Apr 4, 2008

Macià Falgàs i Planas wrote:

I understand your point, and actually I agree with it. However, my client could say "No, it is writen as "9.1 inches", therefore it can't be 9.06 inches. If it was 9.06, it would have been written like this."

(he actually considered this to be a mistake)


The mistake was the client's. If he meant that it could not have been 9.06, then it should have been written as 9.10. The extra "0" is not a whim; it is an indication that the figure is accurate to two decimal digits.

A figure written as 9.1 is greater than or equal to 9.05 and less than 9.15.
A figure written as 9.10 is greater than or equal to 9.095 and less than 9.105.
A figure written as 9.100 is greater than or equal to 9.0095 and less than 9.1005,
and so on.

But not everyone knows this.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
Italian to English
+ ...
Agree with GoodWords Apr 4, 2008

That's how decimal places work - they're not arbitrary.

However, in this specific case, I'd try to put myself in the shoes of the person actually buying the furniture - how accurate do they need the measurement? I'd say they need it to the nearest millimetre, and it's better to round up than round down - it would be extremely annoying to get something home and find it was a tiny little bit too big for the space you'd bought it for! So I'd report your 9.1 inches as 23.2 cm.

You might like to suggest this to your client - it would also provide a graceful "get-out" for you both, as his ignorance of the decimal point convention is irrelevant here.


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Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
French to English
Some advice Apr 4, 2008

Just really agreeing with what GoodWords and Marie-Hélène have already said - the type of text being translated should dictate the accuracy required. A furniture catalogue would obviously not be in the same league as the specs for a new particle accelerator. For furniture, I think one decimal place should suffice and, as Marie-Hèlene said, it's better to round up.

A word of caution though - I'd be very careful with the conversions. What would be the extent of your liability if you miscalculated one of the dimensions?

Simon


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NetLynx  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
English to Danish
+ ...
Number of digits, not decimals, are important here Apr 4, 2008

As 1 in = 2.54 cm, mathematically 9.1 in = 23.114 cm, metrologically and physically 9.1 in = 23 cm, reflecting the accuracy of the measurement {2 digits in both cases}.
NOTE1: Cutting digits one by one leads to 23.114 -> 23.11 -> 23.1 -> 23
NOTE2: Please be careful, one space between numbers and [physical] units: 54.3 cm, 14 in, 45.00 kg; but 18%, 67".

A refinement when leading digit is 1 would be increasing number of digits as in these examples:

10.6 in = 27 cm
6.2 in = 15.7 cm.

In order not to introduce a further inaccuracy, I often increase number of digits by one:
9.1 in = 23.1 cm.

Hope this helps
NetLynx

[Edited at 2008-04-04 07:39]

PS: Significant digits are the words!

[Edited at 2008-04-04 12:21]


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Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
I would think on the final user of that number Apr 4, 2008

Macià Falgàs i Planas wrote:

I have the following question:

To what level of accuracy do you make a conversion from inches-to-cms?

Let's suppose that 9.1 inches are 23.114 cms. Would you leave all the decimals? Would 23.15 be right? (omiting one decimal) Would 23.1 be acceptable? From what point can a conversion like this be considered to be wrong?

I am talking about furniture.


You mention it is about furniture, so I assume the final users are going be business (office furniture) or private users (home furniture).

I guess these users are going to be measuring their rooms with metric tape and then checking the furniture catalogue with your numbers to see if the furniture fits.

In this situation, whether your conversion result is 23.15 or 23.10 is not so relevant because the difference is just half a milimetre, isn't it?

Even if you write 23 cm (even if the piece of furniture is actually 23 cm plus 1 mm, it is not going to make a big difference, I think.

In many other fields you will need to be more precise of course but in this case, it does not seem to be necessary, does it?

Daniel


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:23
English to Dutch
+ ...
Number of significant digits Apr 4, 2008

When I studied physics, I was taught the following rule of thumb:
Always keep the number of significant digits the same.

So, if you have 9.1 inches, that's two significant digits. Therefore, the conversion should be 23 cm - again, two significant digits. Giving this as 23.1 cm is _wrong_, for the reason given by GoodWords in her first reply.
If you have 9.1000 inches, that's five significant digits, and the conversion should be 23.114 cm - again, five significant digits.

That's how it works.

Another thing, it is definitely not common practice to write:
9.1 inch (appr. 23 cm).
There are two alternatives:
23 cm (9.1 inch)
or
23 cm.
The reason is, that the intended audience doesn't know inches, so it should read cm. Adding the original measurement could be an extra, but it has to remain just that, an extra. It should never stand in the way of the proper, localized version of the measurement.
Adding 'appr.' is just plain silly. ANY measurement is, by definition, an approximation. So you would have to write:
app. 23 cm (app. 9.1 inch)
which would not contribute to the clarity of the text (and is, as I said, just silly anyway).


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:23
Member
English to French
With GoodWord Apr 4, 2008

It is about significant digits: there are two significant digits in inches, there should be two in cm.

Also a zero at the end is a significant digit. It should NOT be dropped as I see too often. Goodwords explains it.

I disagree with NetLynx, you don't add a significant digit just like that.
6.2 inches is written instead of 6.23 or whatever because its accuracy is only a tenth of an inch: 6.2" represents an actual value between 6.15 and 6.25
6.15 less_than_sign 6.2 less_than_sign 6.25
Now let's convert:
15.875 less_than_sign 15.748 less_than_sign 15.621. You see that the actual value can be 15.8 or 15.6. BY NO MEANS is the actual value necessarily 15.7.
So 16 cm (meaning the actual value is strictly between 15.5 and 16.5 cm) is the best you can do.
I hope it is clearer now.

Strictly speaking, you should also incorporate the inaccuracy of the conversion: is 1 inch exactly 2.54 cm? or 25,38 mm?

Besides, 9.10 inches is NOT equal to 9.1 inches.

It is a very common problem and I often I see things translated like "3,6 pouces (9,144 cm)". 3,6 pouces is 9,1 cm and 3,60 inches is 9.14cm. I would like to see all translators understand this, especially when they specialise in "technical". a significant digit should mean something to technical translators: more info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Significant_figures.

And agencies and proofreaders need to be educated as well.

There is also common sense: how are you going to measure 23.15 cm to cut a wooden table top? Laser cutting tool? Or weigh 12357.24 kg on a lorry scale?

It has nothing to do with the field or the precision reasonably required, unless a casual measurement like a ten-foot pole.

Have a good weekend,
Philippe

Sorry I am ahving trouble with less than again

[Edited at 2008-04-04 09:14]


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gfe
Local time: 19:23
English to Italian
+ ...
Sometimes customers do know better Apr 4, 2008

The width of a dishwasher as indicated in the manufacturer's catalog may be the average of a number of actual measurements, or much more likely, the expected (committed!) outcome of such an averaging process if we wanted to perform one.

Quality systems are full of rules and regulations about this, as are contracts. It has been our experience that customers, who know what they are committing to, are the proper authority to decide on the presentation of measurement values in a translation.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:23
Member (2004)
Italian to English
Inches to decimal points!!! Apr 4, 2008

A little off topic but the inch is not a metric measurement and fractions of inches are not expressed as decimals!
They are ½, ¼, ⅛ etc. up to 32 or even 64.


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:23
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Significant figures Apr 5, 2008

I generally use significant figures, i.e., 9.1 inches becomes 23 centimeters (both two significant figures), while 9.10 inches becomes 23.1 centimeters (both three significant figures). However, unless specifically asked to do so, I don't convert measurements.

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