According to the SPE Style Guide, we should use the words “million” and “billion” and “trillion” to express large, rounded numbers. You should spell out the preceding numerals of nine or less, unless you have a unit of measure (days, hours, and years count as units of measure.)

Examples:

85 million b/d

six billion people

However, if you are using SI metric units, you should not use “million” or “billion,” but should use powers of 10 notation. This is done by using a decimal numeral between 0 and 10, then a space, then inserting a multiplication or “times” symbol (×), then a space, then a 10 with a superscripted power.

Example:

6.023 × 10(23) mol(-1) (Avogadro’s number, the number of molecules in a mole)

Don’t use an X or an x, as these are recognized digitally as letters, whereas the times symbol is not. To get a times symbol, click the Insert tab (next to Home tab in the Word Ribbon), then go all the way to the right and click on the Omega sign for Symbol, and if it’s not there among the recently used symbols, scroll down to the middle of the sixth line to find the ×, and click on Insert.

I have seen quite a bit of the following format used in technical papers: 6.023E23. Do not use that. Not only is this mashed together and digitally unsearchable, it could be confused with 6.023 × e(23), where e is the exponential number = 2.718181828… raised to the power of 23, not 10 raised to that power. Yes, I know some calculators use the 6.023E23 notation, but that’s because they don’t know any better and they have a limited number of digit spaces available and no superscripting capability (like WordPress).

You, on the other hand, know just what to do and how to do it.

Personal Anecdote:

I was driving to work today and saw a chartreuse Ford Fiesta with a Cal Tech license plate frame and a Texas vanity license plate with the number: 2.998E10

How geeky is that??

What’s even geekier than that, the first thing I did when my computer booted up was go to Google to find out what that number meant. Turns out, it is the speed of light in cm/sec, which is used to convert from wavenumbers to frequency. Cool and geeky with a sense of humor – nice combination.

But I sure hope he doesn’t drive that fast!

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Profound Quote of the Day:

“Cleverness is not wisdom.”

– Euripides, Greek poet, 480-406 BC

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