What’s your altitude?

It’s important to be precise! Well, sometimes at least, often it’s not. The trick is to know the difference. It’s always funny to watch people who have no sense of proportion and appropriate precision. E.g. when you want to calculate your return on investment on something, and some of your input variables are a wild guess or at least a rough assumption, there is always somebody who then ends up with a dollar figure calculated to the tenth place behind the comma and thinks it’s accurate.

Oh, and talking about writing down sums of money. One of my pet peeves is this: When you write down an even amount here, you put a comma and a dash at the end. E.g. when Americans would write $21.00 we would write $21,- . By the way, I don’t know if this is a European or German thing. Other Europeans, do you also do that?

Anyway, there are some people (some close to me, I won’t name names) who don’t know that that’s supposed to be a comma and think it just means “something to do with money”. So when they write down $21.45 they write $21,45,-! Aaah!! Why? How can you have two commas in one number? Sometimes you even see it on menus of restaurants. For some reason the concept is really hard to explain though to people who do this …

Tagged with: , , , , ,
10 comments on “What’s your altitude?
  1. Catapult says:

    Do they now have digital readouts on the control panel that actually do show altitude to the specious foot? It has been a very long time since I was in the cockpit of any aircraft. Back then, there were analog dials with indicator arrows, and a pilot who gave an altitude that specific would have been inventing a couple of digits.

  2. Fabo says:

    Catapult: Never underestimate Chuck! I bet he could read it of to tenths at least.

    Stef: We do it too, but we were the same empire for years so I don’t know it if counts.

  3. hwilker says:

    Formatting like 21,- EUR can frequently be observed here in (North) Germany, as Stef says. I have, however, never seen the misformat $21,45,-. Is that specific to our southeastern neighbour, perhaps?

  4. Mike says:

    We Swiss people do that too.. CHF 21.-, however, we use the dot as a separator instead of a comma.

  5. mike says:

    My favorite in the helicopter world is when somebody gives me an exact altitude calculation for a pinnacle landing, to the foot, even with the altitude corrected in the coleman window telling me “See? The REAL density altitude is actually 25ft HIGHER…”
    Oh really? Great!
    So, on the performance calculation we are now assuming that there is zero wind up there, that the temperature at the landing site is exactly the temp you used for you calculation, that the compressor performs exactly as advertised and the machine burned off exactly the amount of gas you calculated and not 5lbs less?
    Lets just be safe and round up to the next even 1000ft people!


    While it’s good to know how to do all these calculations, it’s not always practical for the real world. That’s kind of where the idea to this strip came from. That and also from the flight I did flying over McCarran where the tower immediately yelled at me the second I dropped 20 feet below my assigned altitude. But I was hand-flying a little Cessna on a bumpy day. Of course I am a little less accurate than the electronic-laden airliners in the pattern….

  6. Wahrsagen says:

    Having some knowledge in accounting in can say that the meaning of the dash is to replace the decimal double zero after the decimal mark; so “.00” is made “.-” in order to improve spediness and readibility. In theory “00” is the most common ending, altouhgt “99” or “95” is gaining popularity at the most penny pincher stores!!
    In the other hand, the decimal mark is a real pain: as a general rule is a dot in English speaking countries and a comma elsewhere, but the prominence of the US and the global commerce has spread the use of dot, actually lending to a complete mess, being scientific or account numbers. See more in decimal mark with a map.

  7. Awesome says:

    The dot/comma mess is one of my pet peeves as well. I HATE it when people use a comma. It isn’t proper use of language in ANY language. To my knowledge, there is no language on earth that swaps commas and periods when using written language; let alone any European nation!

    Why is this a pet peeve? Say it out loud.
    $21.52 = Twenty-One dollars and Fifty-Two cents.
    $21,52 = Twenty-One dollars or Fifty-Two dollars.

    Or if you want a better example:
    The cat bumped in to the dog, and the dog barked.
    The cat bumped in to the dog. The dog barked.

    The second example would be correct in terms of money only because the second unit (the second sentence) has nothing to do with the first one. Cents is not related to dollars.

    I don’t think I explained myself very well here. 🙁

  8. Ken Glaze says:

    Yes, you are right; when writing in English the only correct way to write a decimal number is with a period.

    However, when strictly following grammar rules the only proper use of a comma is to indicate a pause, or as a separator between items in a list, or as a substitute for parenthesis. The comma never imply an “or” after it, even though “or” commonly follows a comma.

    Actually, in Germany, France, and some other European countries, it is common to write out decimal numbers using a comma instead of a period. It looks awkward to Americans and British, but I found you can get used to it pretty quickly. I was in both of those countries last year and the comma thing confused my wife, even after I explained it to her.

    I was a professional minute-taker for 9 years, and had grammar rules thrown at me every day.

  9. Kristian Fahlstrøm says:

    The best “stupidities” where a reasonable approximation is lost, is in translation from imprerial to metric on TV. 4500 feet, translated in subtile to 1 371,6m.

  10. stef says:

    @ hwilker: It isn’t very common, fortunately. The “,-” has to endure much less abuse than the apostrophe, for instance.

    @ Wahrsagen: Very interesting map! Thanks for sharing that! And you’re right when you say it’s a mess. It’s especially annoying when you fill out something money-related in a form of a website and don’t know if it expects a comma or a period. If you get it wrong, sometimes the decimals are truncated or other funny things happen.

    @Awesome: I get your frustration, but you’re wrong about the fact that it isn’t proper use in any language. Look at the article that Wahrsagen has linked to! In fact we even say “something COMMA something” in German.

    In general, I don’t think it has anything to do with grammar, just with handed down customs of accounting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *