We use a lot of numbers here. A high proportion of questions take mathematical answers or are in a position to do so.

I just read through the answers on one of these, and the eternal internationalisation problem has struck again:

that comes out to 13.400K

I found myself thinking, you're trying to heat that thing up and you want to go to thirteen point four Kelvin? What's going on? I did eventually realise that the number was European style, but it took a while.

So that's the question - do we need to define a constant style for numbers? It wouldn't have to be done by the OP, but an editor could then be sure that their edit wouldn't cause controversy.


3 Answers 3


Well, I say that the American UK system wins. I'm not saying that just because I live in the US, I grew up on the , as decimal separator system.

If you ran an SQL query on data.stackexchange the REGEX \d*,\d*.\d* vs \d*.\d*,\d*, you'll find that over 90% of the users favor the . as decimal separator.

Frankly, I don't see this as an issue, as long as we have a post on Meta somewhere specifying that unless otherwise noted, we're using the Non-continental-European rest-of-the-world notation.

PS: It's been a while since I've regexed in SQL, so lemme know if it did something horrible.


On Mi Yodeya we sometimes have a related issue: there are different transliteration schemes from Hebrew, and it can be a little confusing (especially with tags involved). What we've learned over time is that there is no One True Way, and the best approach for us is to let each poster use his own system while doing our best to remove ambiguity (which may mean an English translation in parentheses sometimes, or going to the extra effort of typing the actual Hebrew characters).

I think we have a similar situation here. "K" isn't wrong; it's a different convention. Rather than trying to mandate a single style, which, demonstrably, will be unnatural to some subset of readers, let's try to focus on clarity over rules. What does "K" stand for here? Should that be stated somewhere? (Like an expansion of an acronym, it can simply be expanded on first use and then "K" thereafter.)

If you see an ambiguous notation and you know what was meant, please edit to clarify. Together we can make this site accessible to all readers, regardless of geography or scientific specialization.

  • $\begingroup$ It wasn't the K but the . I was noting: the European system uses , as a decimal point and . as a thousand separator - contrary to the U.S. and uk systems. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode oh! I thought you were saying that there was some other (European) meaning of "K" that would make that number make sense. Hmm... what do other math/science-heavy sites to do solve this problem? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ I can't find any single standard on Mathematics or Physics. Maybe we just have to either come up with something and rely on editors or implement some standard $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Science sites generally use SI units for calculations when it's necessary, but temperature doesn't come up a lot in those. As for the "." . . . well, the European system is generally not used. Even by Europeans. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 2:03

I don't know how it can be solved. Different people use different systems naturally. Furthermore, based on a discussion on a similar issue, it was agreed that modifying the text one way or the other was not considered an improvement. It was more likely to confuse or anger people. I was the one responsible for the controversy apparently. Since I'm not a native English speaker, I don't know all the subtleties between the different Englishes.

It also reminds me of this issue I encountered here not long ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_and_short_scales


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