I heard on ELU that computer programmers often pronounce long numbers like that. What is that method of saying the numbers called? How common is it? What is the point of it? What are the pros and cons of it?

65,536 was pronounced 'sixty-five, five, thirty-six'.

Source: "In computing contexts, we frequently read out large numbers with the "units" omitted. For example, 65,536 is read as "sixty-five, five, thirty-six", which is an abbreviation of "sixty-five thousand" five hundred thirty-six". – Canadian Yankee Apr 1 at 18:19"

Here: How do I say whether or not a number was pronounced like a telephone number (or zip code). Are there words for this?

Here's corroboration: "I find it really hard to imagine anyone saying "two-five-six-K" to me in speech, and if anyone did, I'm sure I would give them a mildly alarmed look. "Two-fifty-six-K" is very different, because that's a common alternative to "two hundred and fifty-six" (and I should have noted that in my first comment!) – Yee-Lum Dec 14 '15 at 17:22"

Here:Saying a number digit by digit

  • 1
    I think you are missing the zeros.
    – user 66974
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 7:57
  • 4
    I'm a computer programmer and I've never pronounced a long number like that. If it's meant to be a numeric value, I'd say it as three hundred and twenty four billion, twenty two million, five thousand, seven hundred and seventy seven. If it was something like an id number, I'd say three two four oh two two oh oh five seven seven seven. Pronounced as you've written it would be missing important information contained in the zeros. Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 7:57
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    You "heard on ELU"? Where?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 8:31
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    Thanks for the reference. The answer there, chunking, appears to answer this question. Could you add to your question to explain why that isn't the answer? (I believe you are wrong with your chunking in the question title, by the way: zeros are absolutely crucial, in the same way as in phone numbers.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 6:52
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    @HotLicks Except that it's 64 K.
    – Rosie F
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


It comes down to individual lethargy and scheduling perception. It would make sense to say the individual digits rather than the larger alternative form even though they are both read in the same direction. It would save a few seconds to exclude the suffix eg. thousands or thousandth. It's quite a mouthful when you get up to the millions and billions if you are behind schedule.

As a tradesman who is upgrading I can certainly say this saves a lot of time at the end of a shift when having to fabricate a few hundred pieces daily. If you are reading out a measurement for an apprentice to "fab" while you, the journeyman, continues the installation or construction process. Something as simple as 23" ⅛" can be read as "twenty-three and an eighth", "twenty-three and one-eighth" or "Twenty-three inches and ⅛ of an inch" where the former phrases are a few words shorter for the same amount of information.

It comes down to familiarity with the job at some point, therefore those who are also in a similar role will understand even without those details. You would save quite a bit of time.

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