Units of measurement in manuals for North America
Thread poster: Studio-ti

Local time: 05:24
Mar 3, 2009

I am currently dealing with manuals for North America.
I have the same manual in English, French and Spanish.

Except for the English version, in which measures (both in the metric and in the imperial system) are written with dots as decimal symbol (15.5 l or 2.4 gal) and commas as digit grouping symbol (15,000 cm or 3,000 in) - no doubt about this -

I was wondering which one of these solutions is the best for French and Spanish:
1) having the usual symbols in French and Spanish (comma as decimal symbol and dot as digit grouping symbol) for metric units and the reverse for imperial units, considered as English measures
e.g. 2,5 m and 2.5 in
2) having the dot as decimal symbol and the comma as digit grouping symbol for both systems
e.g. 2.5 m and 2.5 in

Perhaps some of you are familiar with North American manuals (which I am not) and can give me a good advice.

Thank you in advance


[Edited at 2009-03-03 12:45 GMT]


Elías Sauza  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:24
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
For North America Mar 3, 2009

For Spanish, definitely use the dot for both metric and imperial units.


Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:24
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dot Mar 3, 2009

I can't understand why inches/gallons/ are still used.

Dot is used to separate decimals, and comma separates thousands....in Mexico.


Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:24
English to Dutch
+ ...
Think of the reader Mar 3, 2009

You have to present a document that is comprehensible for the reader, using the conventions the reader is used to.
So, if your target audience is used to 2,000,000.15, use that in alle cases; otherwise, use 2.000.000,15 in all cases.
It doesn't matter what kind of metrics you use, the text has to be easily readible.


Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:24
Italian to English
Imperial units Mar 3, 2009

With a few exceptions (such as gallons) you can't use decimal notation at all for Imperial units. For example, rulers and tape measures don't show inches (or feet or yards) divided by 10. Yards are divided by 3, feet by 12 and inches by 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and so on.
Similarly, scales don't show pounds divided by 10; they are divided by 16 (ounces).
You would never say 3,000 inches (whether with a comma or dot).
It might be 250 ft in some contexts but otherwise 83 yds 1 ft.
Isn't that simple?

[Edited at 2009-03-03 19:46 GMT]


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:24
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
North American Spanish Mar 3, 2009

For Spanish, use the English system of decimal points (with commas as unit separators). This is the system used in both the U.S. and Mexico.

If the Spanish is for the U.S., include both metric and imperial measures. If it's for Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean, the metric measurements alone are enough.

When translating non-scientific texts into English for the U.S., I usually just put the imperial measures, unless the client requests otherwise (in which case the metric measurements go in parentheses after the imperial measurements). For hundreds of millions of U.S. readers, metric measurements are as cryptic and meaningless as imperial measures are to readers in other countries.

Note that when metric measurements are used in U.S. English, the usual abbreviation for "liter" is a capital L, not the lower-case l (which is easily confused with the number 1).


juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:24
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Experiment Mar 7, 2009

I am just curious, why Steven Capsuto's answer is not registered on the system, so I am adding my note here, to see if it would put the thread back to today's date, with me as the last contributor, or not.
Sorry about not querying it with a support ticket - as it has no real significance, just my inquisitiveness, - this seems to be the easier option.


juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:24
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The experiment worked Mar 7, 2009

The thread moved, so it was just a freak glitch.


Julie Dion  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:24
English to French
Canada (French) Apr 3, 2009

It may be to late, but...

In Canada (French) the decimal separator is a comma for both imperial and metric units. Groups of numbers above 9999 are separated by spaces (fine). For feet and inches, it would be 5 pi. 3 po. or 5,25 pi.


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Units of measurement in manuals for North America

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