As a non-native English speaker, I find it utterly confusing to read text containing figures like "1,234 m", which in English means 1234 m while for a person used to read e.g. French or German (person's native language) it'll mean 1234 mm at first, only to be re-read to reinterpret correctly.

There seems to exist a cure for this: according to Wikipedia,

Since 2003, the use of spaces as separators (for example: 20 000 and 1 000 000 for "twenty thousand" and "one million") has been officially endorsed by SI/ISO 31-0 standard, as well as by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the American Medical Association's widely followed AMA Manual of Style, and the Metrication Board, among others.

But, as the posts on StackExchange contain lots of numbers with comma as digit grouping symbol, I'm reluctant to change them to narrow spaces when editing, because I worry that this may be regarded as a question of style, although I suppose using spaces will help non-native-English audience avoid mistaken reading of the numbers — especially 4- to 6-digit long ones, where there's only one comma (two or more commas is a hint already that it's not integer-fraction separator). So far I've approached this conservatively, only fixing numbers lacking integral part in a decimal number (like .1345 instead of 0.1345) by prepending zeros to them, to make it more obvious that there's a point before the digits.

My question is, is it acceptable, when fixing formatting of a post, to replace commas in numbers to narrow no-break spaces (U+202F)? Or are there any good reasons why I shouldn't do it? Does the answer to this depend on the site (e.g. Physics.SE vs English.SE)?

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    I think this would lead to lot of friction and could indeed differ per site. I would only start editing if you have a per site meta post with enough backing of the community and then only do the edits if you full edit privileges (2K at graduated sites) and then only for posts that need other edits as well. So don't make it a go fix all number formatting weekend – rene Nov 11 '17 at 19:45
  • Did you try to find if there is maybe a userscript that can do the number formatting for you, so you don't have to edit the post while still seeing the number in your preferred format? – rene Nov 11 '17 at 19:47
  • @rene the problem is that it's not very easy for a user script to 1) correctly determine the language surrounding a number, 2) fix formatting based on this. Any mistake here would be worse than re-reading actual content of the post. It'd be great if the numbers didn't have digits grouped in the first place — then it'd be very easy to just format them with a user script using whatever grouping char one likes. But, unfortunately, the numbers are actually digit-grouped. – Ruslan Nov 11 '17 at 19:58
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    Kinda curious - does any english language speaking country use commas as decimal seperators? I'd certainly go for the meta post + community consensus, and least assuming an english speaking primary audience, this could be basically never ending. – Journeyman Geek Mod Nov 12 '17 at 0:53
  • These spaces aren't rendering here in Safari, although they do in the Wikipedia article. – jscs Nov 12 '17 at 15:59
  • @JoshCaswell browser dependent? Works fine in safari for iOS and FF for Mac. – Catija ModStaff Nov 12 '17 at 16:28
  • @JoshCaswell Wikipedia doesn't appear to use any characters there, it somehow achieves this space-grouping using {{val|1000000}} markup. This translates into some HTML magic. Also, I have to admit that Vim-Qt (but not Vim-GTK) and Konsole also have some trouble in showing U+202F chars. But it's likely just a bug, maybe somehow related to UTF-8 representation being 3 bytes, maybe something else, likely a Qt bug. – Ruslan Nov 12 '17 at 17:03

If the site does not have a specific policy, then you should not edit posts to conform to your personal or regional style, particularly if it is the only thing you are editing. The formatting is generally up to the OP and this seems to be the numeric equivalent of our "Which version of English do we use?" Here is the policy where the answer is — whichever the author wishes (except for tags, which we've standardized to American English).

For example, we do not edit "favorite" to "favourite" (or the reverse), so we should not edit 1,000,000 to 1 000 000 or 1.000.000.

But you should also check with the site specifically to see if they have a number formatting policy. I can imagine that sites like Mathematics and Physics are more likely to than some (though a quick search turned up nothing on either meta). If the site has a specific policy, follow it.


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