5

In the UK, the Guardian style guide and the BBC style guide say to report temperatures as "25C" or "90F", with no degree symbol.

The NYT style guide says to "Avoid the degree symbol and the abbreviations F and C in articles."

The AP style guide (apparently) says to write "2 degrees or 2 F".

Why is this? Everyone uses the word 'degrees' when talking about temperature, and it's not like the degree symbol takes up an inordinate amount of space on the page. Is it a hangover from days when '°' was not easily available on keyboards or Internet character sets? Is the degree symbol just considered too 'scientific' for regular journalism?

  • 2
    IMHO those guides are for popular articles where authors may have difficulty including the degree symbol ( ° ). In more professional literature, this symbol is commonplace - National Geographic Style Manual – Alexander Apr 5 at 19:14
  • @Alexander That cynical explanation is what I thought of before I clicked the question. Sometimes it's not worth it. When I was at school, a chemistry teacher once yelled at a student for opening a program he wasn't told to, which turned out to be because he wanted to copy-paste the symbol. I'm not surprised the Kelvin is defined to not use it. – J.G. Apr 5 at 20:41
4

There are two parts that impact issues like this.

  1. The style guides you link are in use for documents that are frequently displayed and transferred between highly variable devices and services - The presence of characters such as the Degree Symbol are still not completely reliable, and using them may result in unexpected values being displayed. As robust as modern computer systems are on average, they're still shockingly brittle and full of holes.

Since the publisher cannot guarantee rendering properties, it makes sense to write guides that avoid common problems. [Such as users trying to read an article on the website while they're forcing their browser to display everything in their own custom 'pretty' font, which also happens to lack characters beyond the core ASCII, if they even cover that much...]

  1. Its still just an annoying character to type reliably on a lot of machines... Even in academic circles I run into a lot of users whining about typing something as basic and common as a degree symbol.

    • Sometimes it is easier to just remove a simple problem rather than putting up with people who whine about it...
  • "As robust as modern computer systems are on average, they're still shockingly brittle and full of holes." - I wouldn't call that shocking, but then I'm biased by my job. – Kevin Apr 6 at 16:34
4

I would be careful about saying most style guides.

For instance, here's what The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), 10.58, says, referring to its own guidance as well the International Symbol of Units (SI) format:

In SI usage as in general usage, a space usually appears between the numeral and any abbreviation or symbol. Contrary to general usage, however, SI usage also stipulates a space before a percentage sign (%) or before a degree symbol used for temperature (compare the advice in the introduction to the table at 10.49). In expressions of degrees, minutes, and seconds, SI usage shows (but does not stipulate) a space between quantities. Many publications do not observe these exceptions, and Chicago does not require them in its publications.

SI style    Chicago style  
22 °C       22°C

The Canadian Government says:

Note the following conventions for using the degree symbol:

40 proof
30 °C–50 °C (symbol repeated) but 30±2 °C
10–15 °C
–10 to –15 °C not –10–15 °C
10 °C
10.5 °C
300 K not 300°K
10° (of arc)
10.5° or 10.°5 or 10°30’ or 10°30’00’’
36°N lat.
36th parallel
mm/degree not mm/° (° not to be used alone in denominator)


The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.), gives a list of abbreviations for units of measurement in table 4.4 that includes:

°C     degree Celsius
°F     degree Fehrenheit


That's four pretty well-recognized style guides (or standards of formatting) that indicate the degree symbol should be used.

So, you need to determine which guide you're following and use its guidance.

  • Useful info, but I could change the word 'most' to 'some' and my question would remain. – K. Morgan Apr 8 at 10:28

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