Plus ou moins: ±

verdigo

Senior Member
anglais - Royaume-Uni
Hello,

I'm having one of those moments where I have been in France for so long that I no longer know what is in common English usage and I may even be making thinks up.

I just translated a whole document taking the "±" sign from the original French and using it in the English version. On proofreading my document I am having serious doubts as to whether or not us Brits actually use this symbol in the same way.

Example:

Terreau en vrac: camion de ± 20 m3

I'd like to avoid using words and there is also the "~" or squiggly equals sign that could be used here ("approximately equal to"). But I like the "±" symbol and will gladly keep it if someone could confirm that I can use it in English in the same way as it is used here in French.

Ta v much!
 
  • bobepine

    Senior Member
    Canada, English & French
    I agree that it is used in English, but I personally have not seen it used to indicate approximation. To me, ~ means more or less, as in your example. ± is used to indicate a degree of uncertainty or tolerance (a quality standard could require a measurement to be 20 mm ± 2 mm, for example).
     

    verdigo

    Senior Member
    anglais - Royaume-Uni
    Yes thanks.

    I suspect that jetset has come across it in exactly that context, bobepine. That is what I fear (find and replace here I come!). I think I'll use "approx. x m3 per lorryload".

    Thanks for your help!
     

    Docbike

    Senior Member
    english, UK
    + is universal in all the medical texts I have read as well, expressing a specific margin. This applies to French, Spanish etc. ~ means approximately and is not usually used in formal texts I have seen (just says "approximately"). I wonder whether the original material Verdigo is describing has misused +.
     
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