Sometimes I am unable to stop myself writing to the papers.
Some issues – such as people not using measurement units correctly – are just too important to let pass.
And people referring to temperature units incorrectly induces apoplexy!
For the record, the degree Celsius is an SI unit for temperature: the degrees C********e and F********t are not.
Their use in everyday language is understandable – many people use the F-word occasionally – and in the correct context, it gives no offence.
But for newspapers and media outlets to do so is outrageous!
And using the abbreviation C instead of °C is just wrong.
As I wrote to The Guardian recently:
The measurement system that underpins all of our physical measurements of the world around us is called the International System of Units, widely referred to as ‘the SI’.
It is a staggering achievement, used daily by hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers.
It provides a standard way of comparing measurements around the globe and of referring to those measurements. So why has The Guardian invented its own system of units?
To refer to a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, the standard abbreviation is 25 °C. However The Guardian routinely refers to this as 25C, using the symbol ‘C’ which refers to the SI ‘coulomb’, an amount of electric charge. Why?
You might argue that your meaning is clear in context. And generally it is. But why be wrong when you can be right so easily?
Michael de Podesta
National Physical Laboratory.
P.S. In MS Windows™ systems, the degree symbol is [ALT] + 2 + 4 + 8 on the number keypad and in MacOS the degree symbol is [ALT] + [SHIFT] + 8. In iOS, on numeric keypad use a long press on the zero key to reveal the degree symbol.
P.P.S. There should also be a space between the number and its unit, but I didn’t want to mention that in case you thought I was being pedantic.
More seriously, reporting measurements in the correct units aids clarity of understanding and establishes the basic competence of the author.
Reporting, as The Guardian did this week, that:
“the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times, following a warming trend where the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade.”
merely establishes that the writer knows nothing about measurements.
This is not a matter of style, it’s a matter of just being wrong.
[October 5th 2016: Weight this morning 73.5 kg: Anxiety: Low. I don’t know why, but I just felt OK today :-)]