I have a question about how should scientific unit be written. The author uses the style inconsistently, but since they have science background, I think this inconsistency is actually a typography choice. If it's indeed a question about typography, then I think it's on-topic here.

What do you think? The proposed question is on below

In the book What If?, the author mostly write the units in full words like kilometer, atmosphere, megawatt instead of km, atm, MW. However he does use the symbols in the drawings:

enter image description here

In one line both mm and millimeter are even used together: enter image description here

This makes me confused because I can't find a reason to not using the SI symbols. I guess the reason is similar to writing numbers in words when doing so doesn't look silly for better reading flow feeling. But in the above example, I can't explain why the first number should use mm while the second one should use millimeter.

What could be the reason for this inconsistency?

1 Answer 1


As this is a matter of style in writing prose, I'd say this is a question for the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange. I understand your reasoning that this might be typography, but I disagree with it.

As I understand from the comments, you have already asked this question on Writer. I'd like to inform you that double-posting questions across the network is heavily discouraged. Moreover, Writer hasn't deemed it off-topic, so they consider it a good fit for their site.

Not liking the current answers is, imho, a poor reason to take your question elsewhere where it would be a fringe on-topic question at best.

  • huh? I think this does not tie to any specific language, so while this might not be off-topic there, it doesn't attract much interest there
    – Ooker
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:30
  • @Ooker See edit.
    – Vincent
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:33
  • well, if it's a question about writing, then I think it's better suit in Writing than English Language & Usage, right? In fact, I have asked there, but the answers focus on the choice of the author, which somewhat does not convince me since I pretty sure there will always have a reason behind what they do. So I think it's typography.
    – Ooker
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:53
  • ok, so if designers also think that it's a stylistic choice by the author, then I'll accept that.
    – Ooker
    Feb 22, 2017 at 14:06
  • Well, at least this designer does. I'm only one person, in spite of the diamond next to my name :)
    – Vincent
    Feb 22, 2017 at 14:07
  • im pretty sure it was already asked here, as well as TeX
    – joojaa
    Feb 22, 2017 at 14:53
  • @Vincent well, in fact I completely agree that I shouldn't double post, or re-posting if I don't like the current answers. It's just that I still feel it should have a reason behind that, as I have said before. I have checked your profile, and many of your answers get heavily upvoted, so your answer has a high probability that it reflects other designers too :D
    – Ooker
    Feb 22, 2017 at 17:47
  • @joojaa in TeX too? I have seen many typography questions have been closed as off-topic there. If possible, can you link me to those questions? I cannot find them out
    – Ooker
    Feb 22, 2017 at 17:52

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