2

Height and Weight — How to write them when abbreviations are not used.

He was a 6-foot 5-inch man.

(Not: 6-foot-5-inch man, with three hyphens.)

She gave birth to a 7-pound 11-ounce baby.

(Not: 7-pound-11-ounce baby, with three hyphens.)

And, it should be, I believe:

He is 6 feet 5 inches tall. (Not: 6 feet, 5 inches tall.)

The baby weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces. (Not: 7 pounds, 11 ounces.)

Despite variations in punctuation, I believe that we do not separate singular units of measurements like these with commas.

Good to all?

  • 2
    Don't shoot me, but 1.87 meters has advantages :P – oerkelens Feb 26 '14 at 18:28
  • Huh? I don't understand. – whippoorwill Feb 26 '14 at 18:29
  • 3
    You're right; they do say it. You can use Google to look and see how other people punctuated it. If you're writing for a specific publication, they will have a style guide which may or may not cover this. If not, there's no authority to say which way is correct. – Peter Shor Feb 26 '14 at 19:07
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    If you use foot and inch notations, it would be 6' 5" tall -- not 6', 5" tall. So I believe that your "6 foot 5 inches" is correct. – Metro Feb 26 '14 at 22:24
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    I think the spelled-out height reads better if you are writing prose. The notated format is more technical. I would use it in tables and in text if the number of times I needed to reference heights became awkward and wordy. – Metro Feb 26 '14 at 23:57
4

Your suggested punctuation system for compound or mixed measurements seems perfectly reasonable—and it finds support in at least one style guide. From Words Into Type (1974):

Dimensions, weights, and measures. Commas are unnecessary in the punctuation of phrases denoting dimensions, weights, and measures.

five feet seven inches

4 lb 3 oz

5 hr 10 min

His age is 6 years 4 months 12 days.

On the other hand, the house style at the publisher I work for has long required a comma between hours and minutes when reporting timed results of performance tests—such as "4 hours, 39 minutes." The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (2003) doesn't directly address the question of how to handle such mixed measurements, but one entry happens to show how the University of Chicago Press deals with them:

9.45 Seconds and dates included. A variation of the twenty-four-hour system [of expressing time] shows hours, minutes, and seconds separated by colons; it also shows fraction of a second following a period. This format may be preceded by an ISO-style date [cross reference omitted].

09:27:08.6 = 27 minutes, 8.6 seconds after 9:00 a.m.

1999-05-10-16:09:41.3 = May 5, 1999, at 9 minutes, 41.3 seconds after 4:00 p.m.

In both of these instances, Chicago is centrally concerned with translating the "twenty-four-hour system" variant examples (first without and then with a preceding ISO-style date) from numerals into words; but in doing so, it consistently separates the minute term from the second term with a comma, contrary to the Words Into Type recommendation.

Either the Words Into Type approach or the Chicago approach, if consistently used, should achieve the primary goal of any such system of punctuation, which is to convey the relevant measurements clearly while posing a negligible distraction to readers.

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    The Chicago Manual of Style is intended I think for things like newspapers where typographical space has historically been at a premium. I think that when discussing durations, "three hours and fifteen minutes" often reads better than "3 hours, 15 minutes"; the latter takes less typographical space, however. With regard to other dimensions, I would suggest that one should abbreviate units when using numerals, and write them out when using words; the numeral form should be favored except when forming a multi-word adjective phrase (e.g. a six-foot-four gentleman). – supercat Jan 19 '15 at 19:22

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