Thirty-four thousand, three hundred thirty-five (34,335)
March 14, 2006 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Where does the practice of putting an arabic number in paranthesis after the written number originate?

Does this somehow add clarity? I guess it makes sense for large numbers, but seeing "become prone to errors after seven (7) years" just seems redundant.
posted by sohcahtoa to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
I usually do it the other way around, like "1 (one)," and predominantly use it when sending financial data that I don't want to get fucked up, like submitting numbers to a financial institution by fax. In the event that they can't make out a particular figure on the document, it preemptively resolves the inevitable "Is that a one or a seven?"-type phone call afterwards. There are other instances, but this is my day-to-day usage.
posted by mykescipark at 1:39 PM on March 14, 2006

See my AxMe on the subject, sohcahtoa.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2006

posted by sohcahtoa at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2006

Hrm. I don't even recall ever encountering this. It certainly isn't prevalent in the world of academic history.
posted by Atreides at 3:02 PM on March 14, 2006

Altreides: It seems to be more common in official documents. For example, It's all over the place in EULAs and contest rules.
posted by danb at 4:24 PM on March 14, 2006

My neighbors labeled their house with a spelled out "Twelve" because it looked classy. My house would get deliverymen coming to our house looking for number 12, and we would point to our neighbor's house and they would say "oh no, that's not the right house, because the Tweevels live there, and this package is for the Smiths".

I guess borderline illiteracy is more prevalent than you'd think.
posted by breath at 5:30 PM on March 14, 2006

In contracts, people do it because people do it. (They've seen it done that way, so they think that's the way they have to do it.)

As for why the first guy did it: belt and braces. Lawyers don't care about elegance, they care about winning cases, which is a lot like not losing cases, which means plugging every possible hole with as much cover as they can come up with. "Yes, we said seven. We wrote the word and the number. There is no room for ambiguity."

No one ever needs a belt and braces, but when ten million dollars ($10,000,000.00) is riding on whether you agreed to allow three (3) chickens or thirteen (13) chickens on the bus and whether the bus was going fifty miles per hour (50 mph) or 60 miles per hour (60 mph) when it rounded the corner just as the chickens escaped, people figure, "Why the hell not?"
posted by pracowity at 1:12 AM on March 15, 2006

pracowity is right - in a legal document there's no external pressure not to. I'd say it's less common in English law docs than in the US. The only time I use it is where I'm specifying a value of 0.00 (zero) for something, often in a table of data. It's slightly more useful to show clearly that you really mean zero and not which is a common typo.
posted by patricio at 4:33 AM on March 15, 2006

I've often used it for emphasis, as well as a little "nudge and a wink". Its kinda fun sometimes, as a gimmick.
posted by DickStock at 6:19 AM on March 15, 2006

Some engineers like to do this.

I find it idiotic (stupid).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:47 AM on March 15, 2006

Some engineers like to do this.

I find it idiotic (stupid).

I, for one (1), am with you one hundred (100) percent.
posted by pracowity at 11:18 AM on March 15, 2006

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