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Beware the Decimal Point - A Branding Issue

31st October 2011 by Alan Wood

Clarity and competence are basic principles which undergird a positive brand definition in the minds of both customers and business colleagues. In practice, clarity and competence can mean getting simple things right in order to make life easier for current clients and enquirers, and retaining or building an attractive brand reputation. This includes the straightforward presentation of numbers, whatever the media.

There are three common issues with decimal points in preparing public-facing resources:

1. Position: People have died because 2.0 was written or read as 20.0 and too much medicine or painkiller administered. It is vital to get the position right for terms and conditions, expert evidence and avoiding cringeworthy moments or corrections in high-value sales presentations.

Precautions: carefully proof read and check the context wherever figures are being cited. Whether, a figure is 2.00 or 20.00 or 200.00 use two clarifying zeros after the decimal point to be doubly clear. It is also reasonable to provide the figures in text, surrounded by brackets, as seen in legal and other documents.

2. Foreign documents: the decimal point is routinely replaced by a comma elsewhere in the world, thus: 2,00 or 20,00 or 200,00. This risks confusion with those occasions when UK figures (thousands and millions) are also broken up by commas eg 200,000 for two hundred thousand).

Precautions: Confirm the non-UK origin, being aware that the numbers may be quoted in a secondary source from a different place altogether). Employ a clear, standardised notation such as 200 000 or 200k for two hundred thousand.

3. Decimal point as a fraction: "13.8 years" does not mean 13 years and 8 months. In fact 8/10 x 12 months = 9.6 months so 13.8 years is actually 13 years, 9 months and two weeks.. The difference of 6 weeks could be a vital deadline missed or a skewed market average value.

Precautions: Avoid decimal points for time and quote years+months, absolute number of weeks and specific date deadlines according to need.

A little extra care can go a long way to achieving an attractive, consistently professional brand image. Point taken?

Alan Wood is Director of Clear Thinking Clear Profit, a management consultancy/training business which specialises in critical thinking skills

Clear Thinking Clear Profit and CTCP (tm) are titles of a management consultancy and law training resource

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