Discussion Forum

Please consider registering

sp_LogInOut Log In sp_Registration Register

Register | Lost password?
Advanced Search

— Forum Scope —

— Match —

— Forum Options —

Minimum search word length is 4 characters - maximum search word length is 84 characters

sp_Feed Topic RSS sp_TopicIcon
big numbers
searching for style guideline, if any exists
Topic Rating: 0 (0 votes) 
New River, AZ, USA
Forum Posts: 935
Member Since:
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

I find myself in need of using the awkward expression “thousand million” instead of the usual “billion,” just to impart a sense of magnitude to non-scientific types.

Then I started wondering if maybe “million thousand” would be better to get the point across. I considered “thousand thousand thousand” but rejected it because it just sounded too complex to understand.

Which then led me to the question: is there any style guide or linguistic rule that dictates one over the other. Mathematically, of course, the meanings are identical.

Didn’t find much help searching online. Ngrams provides this interesting result, but I have a hard time believing it.

Fort Worth, TX
Forum Posts: 427
Member Since:
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

How about this.   Instead of trying to write it as you would normally write a number, write one thousand millions or perhaps one million thousands.   Get a feel which number,  million or thousand, is more comprehensible to your audience and then impress upon them that it is a large multiple of that.   I don’t know what a style guide would say but I think if you are trying to make a point, instead of just stating an amount, a style guide would not apply.

However, this may not fit with what you are trying to say. This would be more like a way to explain the size of the number itself rather than that many of something like stars. If that is the case you would need to explain the number first then say, “It’s that many stars.”

New River, AZ, USA
Forum Posts: 935
Member Since:
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Dick said: …write one thousand millions or perhaps one million thousands.

Haven’t yet decided whether the larger or smaller number should come first. But I like your suggestion of using the plural form for the second number. Makes it sound more like English than Mathlish.


Ron Draney
Forum Posts: 674
Member Since:
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Thousand million is a lot more familiar than million thousand, but the real problem is that we’ve grown numb to the word billion through overexposure. Somehow it just doesn’t seem that much bigger than a bare million, and few people have ever spent time thinking about the difference in scale. It’s too bad you can’t substitute a punchier word like “bazillion” to highlight just how much bigger it is.

One thing you might try is getting more scientific. Say “ten to the ninth power” or “a one followed by nine zeroes”.

And I agree with the point that you should follow it with an illustration. One I’ve always liked is to say that a million seconds is about a week and a half, while a billion seconds is over thirty-one years.

Forum Posts: 287
Member Since:
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Heimhenge said

Ngrams provides this interesting result, but I have a hard time believing it.

The overwhelming preference for “thousand million”? Not too surprising, as it’s the European way of expressing the number:

“In particular, a billion is 10^9 = 1 000 000 000 in the American system and 10^12 = 1 000 000 000 000 in the European system. For 10^9, Europeans say ‘thousand million’ or ‘milliard.'”

Forum Posts: 482
Member Since:
sp_UserOfflineSmall Offline

Put ‘billion’ in the Ngram though, and it flattens the other 2 phrases.

Forum Timezone: America/Los_Angeles

Most Users Ever Online: 1147

Currently Online: EmmettRedd, deaconB
7 Guest(s)

Currently Browsing this Page:
1 Guest(s)

Top Posters:

Heimhenge: 935

Bob Bridges: 680

Ron Draney: 674

deaconB: 573

Robert: 482

RobertB: 478

tromboniator: 442

Dick: 427

samaphore: 312

dilettante: 287

Member Stats:

Guest Posters: 611

Members: 3062

Moderators: 1

Admins: 5

Forum Stats:

Groups: 1

Forums: 1

Topics: 3370

Posts: 17868

Newest Members: Callipygous, Grabbit.com.pk, uselesscamper, deschepper, endorendil, hermione, rjpatton20022002, The CrimsonChin, Jay in Vermont, yehuda

Administrators: Martha Barnette: 820, Grant Barrett: 1444, EmmettRedd: 765, Glenn: 1713, timfelten: 0