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Thread: temperature and distance

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    temperature and distance

    Dealing with numbers is sometimes tricky for me, but I usually write out numbers less or equal to ten and use regular numbers for everything else. Sometimes it gets ugly though, but I usually reword to avoid confusion and try to keep everything consistent.

    What about temperature and distance though? Do you write 5 C or five degrees Celsius? If I do 'fifty degrees Celsius' in one place I don't want to do 5 C in another. The same issue is with distance or speed. 80 KPH | eighty kilometers per hour | eighty KPH? or 8 KPH | eight kilometers per hour | eight KPH ?

    Maybe I just need to figure out a standard way of doing it and stick to that.

    Advice? What do you guys do?
    Last edited by indianroads; 12-27-2017 at 10:00 PM.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Calder's Avatar
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    I think you've hit the nail on the head when you say "Maybe I just need to figure out a standard way of doing it and stick to that."
    Whether you use words, or numerals, the trick is to be consistent. Personally I will always opt to use words instead of numbers. chiefly because, for me, it sounds and looks better and also because it's a "rule" which was drummed into me at school all those years ago.
    You can find a reasonable summary of the "rules" here http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/01/13...rs-in-fiction/
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  3. #3
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I write out all numbers in dialogue, regardless of what it is. In text I write out numbers less or equal than ten.

    For units of measurement, I write them out fully. Millimeter, light-second, nanogram. Especially important with units like celsius and kilometers per hour which are not that commonly used in North America (= biggest potential audience). Although sometimes I use shorthand in dialogue, to indicate that the speaker is familiar with it. If a number is combined with a unit, I follow my rule on writing out numbers: <11 text and >10 numbers. In dialogue, all text.

  4. #4
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Here's a subsidiary question. In dialogue, I'm never quite sure what the spelling of the common abbreviation for kilometres is: is it 'kay(s)', or 'k(s)'? Likewise with kilograms: 'kay-gee(s)', or 'k-g(s)'? You can probably avoid the second by just using the more common 'kilos', but there isn't really an alternative for km other than 'klicks', which sounds too military for most uses.
    Last edited by Albedo; 12-28-2017 at 11:01 AM.
    Alex

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Davy The First's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    Here's a subsidiary question. In dialogue, I'm never quite sure what the spelling of the common abbreviation for kilometres is: is it 'kay(s)', or 'k(s)'? Likewise with kilograms: 'kay-gee(s)', or 'k-g(s)'? You can probably avoid the second by just using the more common 'kilos', but there isn't really an alternative for km other than 'klicks', which sounds too military for most uses.
    Never heard of one, other than Klicks, which, well I thought referred to an distance agreed beforehand (ie, the enemy is 20 klicks away', could mean anything, depending on the pre agreement (for covert reasons)


    Sidenote: some interesting takes on Klicks from Vietnam soldiers, esp the ans section.

    https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...military-slang
    Last edited by Davy The First; 12-28-2017 at 12:08 PM.

  6. #6
    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    Here's a subsidiary question. In dialogue, I'm never quite sure what the spelling of the common abbreviation for kilometres is: is it 'kay(s)', or 'k(s)'? Likewise with kilograms: 'kay-gee(s)', or 'k-g(s)'? You can probably avoid the second by just using the more common 'kilos', but there isn't really an alternative for km other than 'klicks', which sounds too military for most uses.
    I was thinking about this the other day. I usually avoid it by using time and/or beers as a measure of distance. But if pushed, I'd use ks.


  7. #7
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    I was thinking about this the other day. I usually avoid it by using time and/or beers as a measure of distance. But if pushed, I'd use ks.
    I like the idea of a lonely spacer being seventy five thousand beers out-system in the Kuiper Belt. That's a long way home.

    Quote Originally Posted by Davy The First View Post
    Never heard of one, other than Klicks, which, well I thought referred to an distance agreed beforehand (ie, the enemy is 20 klicks away', could mean anything, depending on the pre agreement (for covert reasons)


    Sidenote: some interesting takes on Klicks from Vietnam soldiers, esp the ans section.

    https://english.stackexchange.com/qu...military-slang
    This is interesting. I never knew it was a unit that could vary to mean whatever you needed it to mean at the time. I had a vague idea about the Vietnam origin of the term. I'd be interested to know if the Australian army uses that term, or if they say 'kay(s)', or something different. I thought it was primarily American (metric units being strange and foreign and all. )
    Alex

  8. #8
    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    I like the idea of a lonely spacer being seventy five thousand beers out-system in the Kuiper Belt. That's a long way home.
    I would read that novel.


  9. #9
    beef rank be frank's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    I like the idea of a lonely spacer being seventy five thousand beers out-system in the Kuiper Belt. That's a long way home.
    Pfft. It's barely a few hours for David Boon.
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    I think pirate-ninjas are the best units in science fiction ever.

    On that, Andy Weir's The Martian is probably a good book to read to see how all the sciencey, numbery, unity type stuff's done.

    According to Wikipedia, scientists at JPL are already using milli-pirate-ninjas as actual units, and 1 pirate-ninja is 40.6 watts.
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  11. #11
    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by be frank View Post
    Pfft. It's barely a few hours for David Boon.
    Somebody write this book.


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    If it is a lot of syllables (like 358,771) then editors (ime) correct t to numbers.

    But three syllables or less seems okay written out.
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    If I'd known the difference.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Davy The First's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    Somebody write this book.
    I think It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia did a US version skit on this

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    I was thinking about this the other day. I usually avoid it by using time and/or beers as a measure of distance. But if pushed, I'd use ks.
    The only abbreviations I've ever seen in technical articles / journals are KM for Kilometers, and KG for Kilograms. In the military the slang for kilometers is klicks.

    "Showing" as in dialogue presents an issue... "miles" is easy to say, but "kilometers" can be a mouthful (well for me at least because I live in the US). So if the speaker lives in a metric world, do they say "Boulder is 165 KM from here", or do they say "Boulder is 165 Kilometers from here"?

    Considering that my readership will likely be mostly in the US, I need to be careful with temperature as well. He was sweating like crazy. Damn, it must be 50 degrees out here! You see, I have to let readers know that I'm referring to celsius (50 C = 123 F). In the example I gave, it was thought, so I could add the 'C', but in dialogue it would be awkward... I for one don't say, "Dang it's hot... the thermometer says it's 123 F out here." So I can't have a character say, "Dang it's hot... the thermometer says it's 50 C out here."

    So - the core of my issue is that I'm writing a story of a world where the metric system is standard, for readers where the english system is the norm. Sometimes I want to toss it all aside and go with furlongs and stones. (just kidding).

    What I'll probably go with for temperature is to add the "C", for distance use "KM", and for speed use KPH in both thought and conversation. It still feels a little awkward, but maybe I'll get used to it.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    "Showing" as in dialogue presents an issue... "miles" is easy to say, but "kilometers" can be a mouthful (well for me at least because I live in the US). So if the speaker lives in a metric world, do they say "Boulder is 165 KM from here", or do they say "Boulder is 165 Kilometers from here"?
    I always say "kilometers"...

    What I'll probably go with for temperature is to add the "C", for distance use "KM", and for speed use KPH in both thought and conversation. It still feels a little awkward, but maybe I'll get used to it.
    KPH threw me off. I would always use km/h.

    Also note, lower case for km. But capitalize for temperature: °C.

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LJD View Post
    I always say "kilometers"...



    KPH threw me off. I would always use km/h.

    Also note, lower case for km. But capitalize for temperature: °C.
    Good information. Thanks!

  17. #17
    independent claws blackcat777's Avatar
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    I am curious because I have never heard "kays" or "kay-gees" spoken colloquially. (I lived for almost a decade in Canada.)

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackcat777 View Post
    I am curious because I have never heard "kays" or "kay-gees" spoken colloquially. (I lived for almost a decade in Canada.)
    I'm not sure I have, either. I've lived in Canada my whole life, and I would say kilograms or kilos...

    But it's pretty common to talk about pounds here, too.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    The only abbreviations I've ever seen in technical articles / journals are KM for Kilometers, and KG for Kilograms. In the military the slang for kilometers is klicks.

    "Showing" as in dialogue presents an issue... "miles" is easy to say, but "kilometers" can be a mouthful (well for me at least because I live in the US). So if the speaker lives in a metric world, do they say "Boulder is 165 KM from here", or do they say "Boulder is 165 Kilometers from here"?

    Considering that my readership will likely be mostly in the US, I need to be careful with temperature as well. He was sweating like crazy. Damn, it must be 50 degrees out here! You see, I have to let readers know that I'm referring to celsius (50 C = 123 F). In the example I gave, it was thought, so I could add the 'C', but in dialogue it would be awkward... I for one don't say, "Dang it's hot... the thermometer says it's 123 F out here." So I can't have a character say, "Dang it's hot... the thermometer says it's 50 C out here."
    I say "degrees", or even just the number if it's negative, e.g. "it's minus five out there". This is probably the same for people who think in Fahrenheit but you can usually tell from the context if someone means Fahrenheit not centigrade/Celsius. e.g "she's got a fever of 39.6. I'm calling NHS 111" (Non-emergency NHS number.) Over here, everyone uses centigrade so there's no point saying it's centigrade, same as people in the USA don't bother saying it's Fahrenheit, they just leave it for the rest of the world to figure out seeing as someone would be dead long before their temperature's 98 degrees and storing food at 35-40 degrees is a very very very bad idea.

    If you make it clear early on that it's centigrade not Fahrenheit, trust your readers to figure it out. 50 Fahrenheit isn't hot, so when your character says "it must be 50 degrees out here" and you've made it clear that they feel like they're being burned alive when they step into direct sunlight, or that the wind feels like a hair drier set to hot, or that if you go out with bare feet the soles of your feet get burned on your patio, it's blatantly obvious the character's talking in centigrade not Fahrenheit.

    BTW I used to live in Saudi and it got that hot every day during the summer.

    So - the core of my issue is that I'm writing a story of a world where the metric system is standard, for readers where the english system is the norm. Sometimes I want to toss it all aside and go with furlongs and stones. (just kidding).

    What I'll probably go with for temperature is to add the "C", for distance use "KM", and for speed use KPH in both thought and conversation. It still feels a little awkward, but maybe I'll get used to it.
    km shouldn't be capitalised. The speed should be written km/h. K (capital k) is Kelvin, which is a unit of temperature. Small k is for the kilo prefix, meaning 1000x something.

    Note: I just checked online, apparently some publishing houses prefer kph however the SI unit is km/h. Personally, I've never seen kph and it looks weird and I wouldn't have known what it meant if it was outside this conversation, because kilometers is km, not k. I've seen kmph used but not kph. The SI unit system is an internationally agreed system that's used by scientists all around the world.

    As I said above, I wouldn't bother adding the C for centigrade as no-one actually says it unless they're talking to Americans. Even then it's more like "yeah when I was in Saudi the temperature was over fifty every day for the whole summer. That's centigrade by the way, not Fahrenheit." And if it's obvious it's temperature you're talking about, there's not a lot of point even saying "degrees".

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by blackcat777 View Post
    I am curious because I have never heard "kays" or "kay-gees" spoken colloquially. (I lived for almost a decade in Canada.)
    Colloquially in the UK, it's kilos.
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  20. #20
    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackcat777 View Post
    I am curious because I have never heard "kays" or "kay-gees" spoken colloquially. (I lived for almost a decade in Canada.)
    'ks' might just be an Australian version of kilometres.

    Kilograms is kilos or kilograms.

    ETA: agree with LJD and neandermagnon about kph sounding odd. It's km/h or kmh-1 or (spoken) 'an hour'. (or, in convo, 'Said a hundred and sixty on the speeding ticket', 'Legend, ay.')

    Also omitting temperature units and letting context clue in the reader sounds like an excellent solution. I don't think I ever mention the units when I'm talking about the weather. (If the temp's measured in K, that's going to need a bit of explaining.)
    Last edited by Helix; 12-29-2017 at 02:53 AM. Reason: never omit preafrooding


  21. #21
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Kay-gee is uncommon, but I have heard it (in Australia). Kilometres are always kays, never kay-em.
    Last edited by Albedo; 12-29-2017 at 02:27 AM.

  22. #22
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    Also, 'mills' is nearly always ml, but 'mill' without the s is sometimes used for mm.

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    I'm going to revise/remove a lot of the units in the 2nd draft (just edging up on half way through the 1st).

    Sidebar:
    Years ago I wrote a story for my website about riding a motorcycle across Nevada in the winter. In it, I described how bikers generally express how cold (or hot) it is by the amount of cussing that goes with it. "Holy god damn mother fucker it's cold!" is pretty low on the thermometer.

    Anyway - great advice as usual, and thank you everyone. The discussion here has allowed me to mentally step back and take a different look at the problem.

  24. #24
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    I'd be consistent and stick with it, though checking style guides might be handy. In academic writing, the general convention (when using an abbreviation for something that isn't already standardized terminology) is to write it out the first time with the abbreviation in parentheses, then to use the abbreviation for the rest of the paper or article.

    Fiction has looser rules, though individual publishers probably have preferences. With fiction, I'd also treat it differently inside quoted dialog than I would outside. So in the narrative, I might write MPH (or KPH), but I'd write it out inside dialog if the character actually said "miles (or kilometers) per hour" and didn't actually say the abbreviation.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 12-29-2017 at 03:23 AM.
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    practical experience, FTW MaeZe's Avatar
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    Just a consideration I didn't see mentioned, (or I skimmed over it, equally likely), is that some of this depends on genre. I imagine a military and some sci-fi novels are going to use klicks and they might expect their readers to know what it means.

    Dialogue might leave out C or F when mentioning temperature because who says that unless you live somewhere like on the US Canadian border and have to clarify it sometimes. Otherwise you just say something like, "It's five below" or "It's ten degrees out there".

    I too, having always lived in the US, found 'kilometers' awkward in my characters' dialogue. But I'm using it because it makes no sense to use 'miles' or 'Fahrenheit' in the future. Invented units would also make sense.

    For straight narration I'm fine with writing out short numbers, numbers at the beginning of a sentence and using numerals for larger numbers. I believe it was what I was taught in school, which doesn't make it correct.

    When it comes to C or F, as a reader I don't notice whether it's spelled it out or not, nor do I notice if one includes 'degrees' or not.

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