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I have two representations of numbers, one is with thousands separators that are localized based on country so 1,234,567.89 for English and 1.234.567,89 for German, for example. This representation I'm calling "formatted"

The other is the "plain" representation of the number, in this case 1234567.89. Is there a good term for this numeric, can-be-used-in-calculations representation?

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    Is there something wrong with "unformatted"? Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 8:51
  • "unformatted" is more or less what we already use, but it doesn't convey the can-be-used-in-calculations part. This is in a software context where the "formatted" numbers are store as strings, while the "plain"/"unformatted" ones are stored as numbers.
    – mayacoda
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 11:10
  • Why are you storing formatted numbersas strings? Why not just store the numerical value and format on-the-fly only when you need to print them?
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 16:57
  • @Jim I'm asking precisely because I'm stumped on what to call the on-the-fly converters that print them. The naming is both for the code and for communicating to non-technical people.
    – mayacoda
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 10:15

2 Answers 2

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An interesting question where the answer depends much more on defined convention than on dictionary usage. Your "plain" number and your "formatted" number are both "decimal" numbers.

Your "formatted" number is better termed a "grouped" decimal because of the international standards that apply:

A comma or a dot on a line are reaffirmed as decimal marker symbols, and not as grouping symbols in order to facilitate reading;

"numbers may be divided in groups of three in order to facilitate reading;

neither dots nor commas are ever inserted in the spaces between groups".

General Conference on Weights and Measures

Previous usage had groupings such as 123,234,432.993 but the use of commas and stops was potentially confusing and it makes sense to do away with all except the decimal separator (either the stop or the comma). You may see the confusion in examples like your own, or in this:

GB-English 4,294,967,295.000

Italian 4.294.967.295,000

https://docs.oracle.com/cd/E19455-01/806-0169/overview-9/index.html

The general conference specified the comma and the dot as decimal separators. It also specified that grouping should be done with spaces. Hence:

1234567.89 (or 1234567,89) are decimals

and 1 234 567.89 (or 1 234 567,89) may be termed "grouped decimals".

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The written form of the numbers are all represented by the same to the computer. All three of the forms (1,234.56 / 1.234,56 / 1234.56) could be considered 'formatted'. That is because they are all representations of floating-point numbers.

It's not a single word, but floating-point representation would work for numeric, can-be-used-in-calculations representation.

A floating-point representation is the reason that a normal-looking number like 10.1 sometimes will get printed as 10.09999998. (The fractional 0.1 is a represented by a repeated binary mantissa.)

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  • A great question on our sister site, StackOverflow, wonders "Is floating point math broken?" (stackoverflow.com/questions/588004/…). And even if you're a veteran in the world of floating-point numbers, a great article is "What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic", which was reprinted at docs.oracle.com/cd/E19957-01/806-3568/ncg_goldberg.html .
    – rajah9
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 12:12
  • All very true, and relevant to the digital computational handling of number, but the question asks for English terms to describe the representation; it does not ask about technical computational aspects of rounding or significant digits.
    – Anton
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 13:30
  • But the OP may be lacking the concept that all of the numbers are formatted, even the plain "1234567.89".
    – rajah9
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 13:33
  • This is likely the technically correct answer. The context is software and the reason I specified "1,234,567.89" as "formatted" while `1234567.89" as "plain" is because the former is stored as a string and the later as a number (JavaScript, so always float). Calling it just a "number" is ambiguous, as one could argue "they're all numbers." Floating-point is indeed more correct, but not a familiar term in the context where it would be used.
    – mayacoda
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 14:56
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    I disagree that floating point is the technically correct answer. Floating point representation is a machine format. It allows the decimal point to “float” back and forth (as described by the exponent) within the mantissa (significant digits). The number as formatted is not in floating point form - the decimal place is fixed between the ones digit and the tenths digit.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 15:44

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