Monday, 29 June 2009

On the South African decimal point

Can anyone shed light on the origin of the South African use of the comma, rather than the decimal point e.g. 10,2 tonnes, rather than 10.2 tonnes? It infuriates journal editors, as tables, text etc have to be edited to the international norm.

Once the preserve of South Africa, I notice the practice creeping into papers from other countries, particularly Eastern Europe and Asia.

The latest South African innovation is the omission of the full stops in a person's initials e.g. BA Wills, rather than B.A. Wills.

See also the discussion at LinkedIn.


  1. There are a large number of countries using the comma - I had to learn it when I worked in France and then unlearn it.
    has a list of these and South Africa is the most English speaking of them - hence your exposure.

  2. Thanks Nick. It must be awkward when using spreadsheets etc. I assume the commas would then all have to be converted to decimal points? Unless Excel can cope with commas?

  3. Hi Barry, I had to cope with commas during my 5 years working in Germany and yes, Excel can cope with them.
    Rolf Fandrich
    PS Enjoy your Blog!

  4. Thanks Rolf. Looks like South Africa not the only country that has adopted the comma.

    Elsevier has standardised to the decimal point (just checked with them) so take heed anyone who is submitting to Minerals Engineering, Hydromet etc.


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