When I was in elementary school and learning about measurements in the 1990s, my teachers used to tell us, “Don’t get too used to using inches! By the time you grow up, we’ll have changed over to the metric system!” So we learned our measurements with trepidation – but all for naught, it seems! In fact, according to Wikipedia, the United States is one of only three countries that do not use the metric system, and it’s the only industrialized country to hold firm to its inches.
This can make for tricky fact-checking when working with clients in Canada, as you might imagine. Here are three tips that I use when working with metric system measurements:
- The first is an oldie but goody (that is quite necessary): Adjust the Microsoft Word settings to English (Canada), rather than the standard English (United States). While the two systems speak the same language, they have small spelling differences (as I address in my previous blog post ) that just might creep up on you when you least expect it. Thus, rather than writing about meters, I write about metres.
- Find a trustworthy website to make the necessary conversions. While the metric system is more logical than the imperial system that I grew up learning, old habits die hard. Fortunately, there are websites like http://www.metric-conversions.org/converter.htm that we imperial system users can utilize (or utilise, as it were) to ensure accuracy and consistency, which is essential to any editor.
- Check and check again. As editors, we know that we cannot edit a document once and expect that we have made all of the necessary changes. This is also true when fact-checking for measurements. If an architect client has accidentally used “centimetres” when he or she meant to write “metres,” this could make for a confusing document to the client’s readers, who may not actually want a tiny house! Therefore, checking all of the measurements for accuracy is essential.
Do you have any tips or tricks for working with different systems of measurement other than your own? Let us know in the comments below!
Kaci Schmitt works as an English teacher and freelance writer and editor in Portland, Oregon, and she is also a graduate student studying school counselling (and editing plenty of dissertations in the process!). She loves her cat, coffee, and the Oxford comma. She writes at http://klwrites.com and is currently welcoming new writing and editing projects.