Spaces and units: survey results

numbersLast week, in our post on units and spaces, we asked you to take a short survey. We’re delighted to report that 130 people did – and here are the results.

Overall, most of you were in favour of closing up the number and unit, with four fifths preferring ‘1.75cm’ to ‘1.75 cm’. However, this wasn’t the case across the board. With some units, such as kcal, more than half (57 per cent) of you preferred to include a space. This may be because we are used to seeing it with a space on food packaging.

Those who described themselves as working mainly for media (20 per cent) were far more likely to want to close up the number and unit in all instances, while those who said they wrote mainly for academia (4 per cent) were more likely to want to leave a space in all instances. Those who wrote mainly for business (80 per cent) were more mixed, but tended towards not leaving a space.

So, while there are some quite strict formatting rules within the scientific and academic communities, which say to leave a space in almost all instances, it seems that many people outside of those communities actually prefer not to.

Both styles are fine, but it’s a good idea to be consistent within your organisation, so we recommend deciding on a preference and adding it to your house style guide. If you don’t have one, you can talk to us about tailoring our style guide The Write Stuff to your organisation’s needs.

Survey responses

1. Would you write ‘the table is 1.75cm wide’ or ‘the table is 1.75 cm wide’?

  • 80 per cent said 1.75cm
  • 20 per cent said 1.75 cm

2. Would you write ‘then add 7oz of flour’ or ‘then add 7 oz of flour’?

  • 80 per cent said 7oz
  • 20 per cent said 7 oz

3. Would you write ‘the car was travelling at 80mph’ or ‘the car was travelling at 80 mph’?

  • 55 per cent said 80mph
  • 45 per cent said 80 mph

4. Would you write ‘one slice of cheese on toast contains 150kcal’ or ‘one slice of cheese on toast contains 150 kcal’?

  • 43 per cent said 150kcal
  • 57 per cent said 150 kcal

5. We asked you what kind of writing you usually do, and you answered:

  • mainly for business – 60 per cent
  • mainly for media – 20 per cent
  • mainly for pleasure – 11 per cent
  • mainly for academia – 4 per cent
  • all of the above – 5 per cent

We also asked you for your nationality, but as 89 per cent of those who answered were British, we don’t have enough data about the other nationalities (which included Indian, Swiss, Dutch, South African, American, Canadian, Irish and Australian) to draw any conclusions about national preferences.

The definitive guide to transforming the writing of individuals and teams