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Precentages are simple. No, really.

Tags: — Allan @ 10:33 pm

I think percentages are simple. Take 100%, for example: it means everything. And 0% means nothing. 50% is about half.

Per cent of course means “per hundred”, so 27% is just a short way of saying “27 per hundred”, or 27/100, or 0.27. Really, is that hard?

In Britain, it seems to be. Whenever there is a change in tax, it’s not “an decrease of 2%”, it is “an decrease of 2 pennies in the Pound”. The Lib Dems do it, the Torygraph does it, and even the Independent does it, even though it seems like an awkward, round-about and much too cumbersome way of saying something simple.

Today, I read an article about the Chrysler bankruptcy filing, where lots of percentages are thrown around, but this time using “20pc” to mean 20%. What is the idea with that? “pc” means “pieces”, I think, and I constantly read “20 pieces of silver” – most distracting, not to mention unnecessary.

Even Wikipedia’s article on percentages doesn’t mention either of those uses. I’d encourage them to go away – just use “percent”, or the fine sign with the same meaning, %. It’s clear, it’s unambiguous, and it’s really not hard.

Or am I missing something? Not having grown up in the UK, I may this moment be violating any number of cultural taboos, or trespassing on ground that is off-limits for some reason. Did the French use percentages in a particularly bad way, perhaps, or does the % symbol carry some hidden meaning of which I as a foreigner am unaware?

If that is the case, please do let me know. If not, well, then please use percentages: it’s what they are there for 🙂