Tricky English

8. mars 2001 - 12:24

These are the best means of avoiding the confusion with signs and letter combinations such as £, $ and kr which can be understood as a different type of currency than the writer intended.

Note that the currency is always written first (example: USD 15 million) but read as 15 million US dollars. Note how decimals are read:

written English
spoken English

NOK 2 million, Two million Norwegian kroner

USD 25.50, Twenty-five dollars fifty (cents)

GBP 3.20, Three pounds twenty (pence)

EUR 55.50 , Fifty-five euro fifty (cents)

Abbreviate million as m, not mill. (this avoids confusion with the Norwegian milliard or the French mille). Billion is abbreviated bn, not bill. Both Britain and the USA have now agreed that one billion is 1 000 000 000.

The use of "K" for "kilo" and "M" for "million" before a three-character ISO currency code may be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with economic abbreviations used in parts of Europe. Thus it is best to write NOK 25 million, or NOK 25 m (not MNOK 25).

Write USD 25 billion or USD 25 bn (not KUSD 25 million).

Also remember that a space should be used as a thousand marker in English. A typical Norwegian confusion occurred in a recent contract written in English where a professor was offered a position at the salary of NOK 381.755 per annum (minus the usual 2 % deduction for pension).

Tricky words: Bottom line, basic question

Bottom line (Norw. sluttsum, det vesentlige) in accounts, this is the final total on a balance sheet or financial document: "The bottom line is the annual surplus". In more general business English, the bottom line is also used to mean what is the price of something or what is the basic issue, the most important thing: "The bottom line is will the market pay extra for this safety feature?"

Basic question (Norw. det vesentlige) means the fundamental issue or the bottom line in the last sense. Basic question, basic issue, fundamental issue, the crux of the matter are all alternatives to the rather overused bottom line.

Enlightening English

An American businessperson in China was trying to get a better deal and said: – The bottom line is the bottom line. The depths of this statement puzzled the translator who informed his Chinese client that: – The line is on the bottom, never on the top.

In The Moscow Times an ad under the heading "interpreting" advised: – Bet us your letter of business translation do. Every people in our staffing know English like the hand of their back. Up to the minuet wise-street phrases, don't you know, old boy.

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