21 US and British English
21.3 Quantities, units, and numerical information
21.3.1 US units of measure
For readers of non-technical documents (including journalism) in US English, the following units are the norm:
Linear measurement: imperial system (inches, feet, yards, miles)
Area measurement: imperial system (square inches, square feet, acres, square miles)
Cubic measurement: cubic inches and feet
Liquid and dry volume: pints, quarts, gallons, bushels
Units of mass: ounces, pounds, tons
Temperature: Fahrenheit scale
In US style, recipes use the imperial units of volume noted above and also the cup: equal to half a US pint, or eight ounces. There are numerous resources online for conversion to these from metric units by typing, for example
convert 450 ml to cups
in a search engine. This service works for any sort of conversion in commonly used units and is readily available in the absence of extensive tables that list the conversions.
21.3.2 British units of measure
For British readers use the metric system for linear, area, and volumetric measurements and the Celsius scale for temperature. Note that the phrase below zero in British text normally means below freezing. In US English, it normally means below zero in the Fahrenheit scale, or about –18º C.
In some non-technical contexts British readers may still prefer imperial units: distances in miles, for example, rather than in kilometres. The stone (plural stone, and equal to 14 pounds), with any fractional part reported in pounds, is often expected for reporting a person's weight, rather than kilograms.
The British and US imperial units of volume larger than the ounce are not precise equivalents; the British pint contains 20 ounces, the US pint only 16. There are few contexts in which these differences are pertinent because the larger imperial units (quart and gallon) are not commonly used in the UK today. Most readers of English in any dialect are familiar with the British use of pint in relation to beverages and no further explication is necessary. However, any measurements involving cookery in which pints are used should be carefully converted to an appropriate equivalent.
21.3.3 Other numerical data
See the note at the end of
The word nought is not used in US English to stand for zero. For technical contexts, zero is used; for scores in sports, nothing is used.
In all of the US and Canada, numbers for landline telephones or mobile phones contain 10 digits. The first three are called the area code. The two most popular styles for showing telephone numbers are:
Occasionally a 1 appears at the beginning of a full number; this is required on most landline telephones when they are calling a number outside the local area code:
UK telephone numbers vary in length and typically consist of two parts. The first part, most usually designating a geographical area or a particular grouping of mobile telephone numbers, may be set off in brackets:
Other styles may eliminate the brackets, or show a division in the non-geographical part of the number:
0nnn nnn nnnn
It is common in Britain and elsewhere, and increasingly so in the US, to prefix a country code with a + sign at the beginning of a foreign telephone number. In this case the leading zero is dropped:
+31 20 347 1111.
A US alternative is to show the country code in parenthesis at the beginning of a number:
(31) 20 347 1111.
These are discussed at some length in
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