Zero or Nil?

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Ben Jamin

Senior Member
Polish
Hello,
Could you look at the two sentences:
The step also involves preparation of a programme, investigation of alternative actions and their consequences (including the zero option).
The step also involves preparation of a programme, investigation of alternative actions and their consequences (including the nil option).

Is there a difference of meaning?
Would it be even better to write: ".... (including the "no action "option)" ?
 
  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    This is basically a technical term, so it’s not a general language question- the term is used in a way which has been predefined by the speaker/writer or is widespread in an industry or environment. The correct one to use is whichever one is usually used, and it is not interchangeable, although the writer/speaker could predefine either with the same meaning (or choose the banana option or the zoop option - it becomes a label which is divorced from the dictionary meaning).
    Personally I have always seen the zero option here.
    What is your source and which version was used?
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    This is basically a technical term, so it’s not a general language question- the term is used in a way which has been predefined by the speaker/writer or is widespread in an industry or environment. The correct one to use is whichever one is usually used, and it is not interchangeable, although the writer/speaker could predefine either with the same meaning (or choose the banana option or the zoop option - it becomes a label which is divorced from the dictionary meaning).
    Personally I have always seen the zero option here.
    What is your source and which version was used?
    I am editing a technical paper prepared by an international team. The original wording was "zero". "Nil" was proposed by a British person. I was wondering if the proposal for change was very important to follow, as I supposed that the non-native English readers will understand "zero" better than "nil".
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would not use either. "Including the option of doing nothing" appears to express the same thing in ordinary, understandable English. However, if "zero option" or "nil option" is commonly used in your area of work, then by all means copy the usage yourself.
     

    S1m0n

    Senior Member
    English
    'Nil' is word with much wider currency in the UK. Americans will be more likely to use "zero'. I would use the latter, because it is much more widely understood. "Nil" is not a word that those with AE will understand.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE, I don't think we use 'nil' very much, if at all, outside of football scores, where it means 'zero'.

    In your context I think 'null option' might be an option. But 'zero' is probably better.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Apart from football, there are at least a couple of other common contexts:

    Her knowledge of the subject was nil.
    A hospital doctor might order the patient to be given nil by mouth.
     
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