# [texhax] Units in technical writing

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Thu Dec 29 04:20:47 CET 2011

On 2011-12-28 at 18:05:19 -0700, Gordon Haverland wrote:

> For example: line breaking.  If I have $3 m/s$ in my source, do I
> want to allow a linebreak between the 3 and the unit?  I know that
> if I see a line break in the middle of the unit (here m/s) I
> should do something to change the linebreak.

Linebreaks between a number and a unit should be avoided.  But why do
you ask?  You recognized yourself that they are unfortunate.  So just
avoid them.

> I think there is a reason to typeset units slightly different from
> regular text.
>
> He did something for 1 second.
>
> He did something for the second time.
>
> If "second" is typeset slightly differently in the first case, a
> person gets reinforcement that a unit of measurement is involved.

I don't see any need.  Both sentences are comprehensible and
unambiguous.  And "second" is not a unit but plain text in both cases.
The unit is "s".

> Where I run into something similar, is that if I am talking about
> elements, I will do something like
>
> The lead (Pb) is the major component of the battery plate.
>
> The word "lead" is just too ambiguous and has different
> pronounciations depending on context.  And by appending (Pb) I
> hope to avoid much of this ambiguity.

Yes, a battery is quite useless without leads (cables) but you are
talking about a battery plate, which reduces the amount of ambiguities.
On the other hand, mentioning Pb is a nice idea.

> Mind you, it does depend on people knowing that the periodic table
> abbreviation for lead is Pb ({\it plumbum}).

Don't worry.  Everybody knows.

Regards,
Reinhard

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Reinhard Kotucha                                      Phone: +49-511-3373112
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