space or no space before cm, m, mm etc.?

Catalinata

Senior Member
Australia, English
Hi, I've just translated a text into British English, where it felt natural for me to avoid spaces between numbers and the measurements, i.e. 16.8cm, not 16.8 cm. Now the American proofreader is telling the editor she should add in all these spaces. There are quite a lot of figures like these and I would like to know if there is a standard rule in British English before proceeding with corrections if they are unnecessary. Thanks.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The proofreader should not be telling the editor anything, surely?
    There should be a style guide for the publication.
    Otherwise, consult some reputable guides.
    THIS ONE includes a space.
     

    scrimp

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Hello,

    Could anybody tell me the correct way to write measurements? I.e. should a space be used after the number or not?

    25cm or 25 cm?

    1m or 1 m?

    I have always believed that a space should not be used (25cm) but having looked on the internet I'm starting to believe it should. I'd really appreciate some more opinions on this.

    Thank you in advance.

    Mod note: scrimp's thread has now been merged with an earlier thread.
     
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    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    Is there really a rule on this? And must it be the same for hand-writing, type-writing and internet writing?

    I personally feel more comfortable joining the two, but that's just personal taste; I think it looks better.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    For what it's worth: Wikipedia: There should always be a (non-breaking) space between the number and the unit — '25 km' is correct, and '25km' is incorrect. In Section 5.3.3. of The International System of Units (SI), the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) states "The numerical value always precedes the unit, and a space is always used to separate the unit from the number. … The only exceptions to this rule are for the unit symbols for degree, minute, and second for plane angle."

    Try to remember that I'm just the messenger.
     

    Spira

    Banned
    UK English
    Aren't monetary amounts a form of measure?
    I thought of the handwriting distinction because it pre-dates typeface by hundreds of years, and word-processors by thousands, and it seems a possibility that recent rules have been created by bureaucratic institutions for formal documents.
    <<...>>
     
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    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    The BIPM is an organization that decides what it's going to lay out rules for. I provided a link so you could see that currency symbols are not part of their interest.

    As for handwriting and word-processing and spaces, I would suggest that life improves and a certain degree of standardization benefits communication, especially now that we're communicating globally. Thousands of years ago, we didn't even have some of the measurements we have today (angstroms spring to mind), so there was nothing to rule on in those cases. These days, an international standard is welcomed by many, by consensus -- this isn't some breakaway measurement-enforcing cult set up in Idaho -- but you don't have to use it if you don't want to. There are no penalities or punishment. If you like 12km better than 12 km, by all means, go ahead. I'll be one of the many people who will understand you.

    <<...>>
     
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    scrimp

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    Thanks very much for your replies.

    Copyright, thank you for looking. That's the text I saw that made me realise I was probably wrong to write it as 25cm. I'm sure it's correct as the BIPM sounds very official, but it surprised me as I seem to remember being taught at school that it should be close up. This is also the experience of my work colleagues. I'd be interested to know what the opinions are of teachers in the UK.

    sdgraham, thank you. I have looked at that post. A good point was made about style guides. The document referred to in that post is American and I'm curious to know if style would differ from England and the U.S.

    <<...>>
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There was an interesting conversation on this theme in 24 V or 24V?

    At least part of it would lead us to include a space because that's what the SI standards say.
    And another part of it would lead us to suggest that no matter what the SI standard says, unless we're writing in a scientific paper we should feel happy to omit the space ... because it looks funny.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    For what it's worth, I always write such things 'closed', I always have and probably always will:
    £12.50, €25, $999,990, 16.2km, 30psi, etc. etc. etc.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Me too.

    Rover
    And me:). Spira's comment about handwriting is interesting, though. I would leave a space between "12" and "km" in handwriting 12km, though I wouldn't do so between a currency symbol and a number.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    And me:). Spira's comment about handwriting is interesting, though. I would leave a space between "12" and "km" in handwriting 12km, though I wouldn't do so between a currency symbol and a number.
    The question of writing currency symbols is clearly off topic (space before measurement), but I don't expect it would be difficult to find a reputable source to support no space between currency symbol and value. Apart from any other consideration, leaving a space in
    £ 39,400.12 would leave open the opportunity to convert the amount to £939,400.12.

    The matter of currencies is a red herring that should have been dealt with, if necessary, in a separate threat.
    Handwriting? What's that? ;)
    Some of us, Sikaranista, have chosen to perpetuate the art of handwriting. As I write 12 km, I defy anyone, including myself, to determine whether or not there is a space between 12 and km.

    But I'll confess. In any normal writing or typing, there is no space. It would never occur to me to include a space there.

    But when preparing a formal text to be submitted for publication, I would check the style guide first, and if there was nothing specific there I would follow the SI guidelines and be careful to leave a space in 12 km.
     

    Milleroo

    Member
    English - England
    Many UK publications do not use a space between the number and the measurement (e.g. 100m). I personally find this the most natural way of writing it but I suppose consistency is the key.
     

    Jin akashini

    Senior Member
    vietnamese
    <Moderator note: Jin akashini's thread has been merged with an earlier one>

    Hi every one,

    I want to ask you standard to write"km" behind number.

    For example, which way of writing is correct "100km" or "100 km". Is there any gap between "100" and "km"

    Many thanks,
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think it depends on what you are writing and who you are writing for. I tend to write 10m, 10g etc unless the style guide for that publication insists on a space.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I use a space if I'm writing a noun phrase (where it would be two separate words written out), and no space if I'm writing an adjective (which would be one hyphenated word).

    My friend ran 100 mi this weekend.
    My friend did a 100mi run this weekend.

    Took her a little over 27 hours to finish....
     

    loveisagiven

    New Member
    English - United States of America
    For what it's worth: Wikipedia: There should always be a (non-breaking) space between the number and the unit — '25 km' is correct, and '25km' is incorrect. In Section 5.3.3. of The International System of Units (SI), the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) states "The numerical value always precedes the unit, and a space is always used to separate the unit from the number. … The only exceptions to this rule are for the unit symbols for degree, minute, and second for plane angle."

    Try to remember that I'm just the messenger.
    Thank you for this reply! It is helpful.
     

    ed6514

    New Member
    USA, English
    I'm currently working on a scientific paper for a class, so this is an interesting topic for me right now. In my search I ran across two sources. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a very good summary of all the rules for units in technical documents, and from the University of Illinois a more chatty and readable pdf of a slide presentation that covers most of the usual situations. Both are quite clear that a hard space is required between a number and a text unit abbreviation (not a unit symbol) with a handful of specific exceptions.

    They both have a lot of other useful information, such as never start a sentence with a number (either use text or rewrite the sentence) and whether to use "a" or "an" before a number (base it on how you pronounce it when reading, like "an 8 cm gap"). :)

    Cheers!

    Ed
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I'm currently working on a scientific paper for a class, so this is an interesting topic for me right now. In my search I ran across two sources. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
    There is a lot to agree with in the PowerPoint presentation, and I can see their points for their audience, but their claimed area is specialised - they are the scientific authority - this is an "in-house style" and not applicable outside the house.

    Practicalities come into it: How many people know or care about a "non-breaking space" and how to reproduce it on a keyboard? (if you don't want a space that breaks, don't have a space at all. I also note that all symbols for physical quantities are to be italicised. And this is a collectors' item:
    The US is gradually adopting European style in breaking 000s. According to IUPAP, a comma (,) should no longer be used to separate numbers having more than four digits into groups of three digits 12 578 896 NOT 12,578,896. Ideally, narrow or half spaces should be used. Be sure to use non-breaking spaces to avoid having part of the number marooned on a separate line.
    I can't see that happening in the real world any time soon.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'm with Paul on this. Our maths textbooks in the 1970s when I was at school also mentioned the use of space as digit separator, and employed it in the textbook. I have yet to see any English speaker use a space instead of a comma.
     

    veronius

    New Member
    Canadian English
    I am proofreading translated copy for a very large, well established manufacturing company that is a client of the translation house I work for. Said company never uses a space before cm, mm etc. However, some of the translators have seen fit to add one in their translations. I know they are correct, but I have removed the spaces as the client's house style is not to use them, the client is always right, and the house style has been in use for decades.
     

    veronius

    New Member
    Canadian English
    If you're working for the translation house, follow their rules. They're the ones that are paying you, after all. :D
    That's the problem. The employer can't possibly have rules to cover every contingency, and the client probably hasn't even thought about whether there should be a space before "cm," so the Law of Inertia governs - keep doing whatever you {or your clients] have done in the past.
     
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