I am writing this as I listen to a BBC Radio 4 programme on children lying, presented by Mariella Frostrup. I was infuriated to hear her say that ‘people tell on average two point nineteen lies a day’ and relieved when she repeated this statement later, saying ‘two point one nine’.
I was taught in school that digits after the decimal point (well, I shall not lie, ‘decimal comma’ it was in what was then called Rhodesia in the 1970s) should be stated as individual numbers. This makes sense. Consider Ms Frostrup’s ‘2.19 lies/day’. What if this were written as ‘2.190’? This would imply a greater degree of precision, but it would not connote a larger number, though ‘two point one hundred and ninety’ sounds as if it should be a larger number than ‘two point one nine’. Please, it is ‘two point one nine’, or ‘two point one nine zero’ if you know the figure is accurate to three decimal places.
Thanks to Ms Frostrup for finally giving me the kick I needed to take action on this issue, which has been annoying me for decades. Please, teachers and broadcasters, take note.