2.0 pronounced two point oh

2.0 pronounced two point oh

Summary: Educated native speakers of American English intuitively know when to say 'dot' and when to say 'point', but the rest of world doesn't. For the record, here are the rules that explain how to say 2.0, $3.49 and 802.3.

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TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0
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By an overwhelming margin, ZDNet readers have voted 'two point oh' the preferred way to say '2.0' in phrases including Web 2.0, Business 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Office 2.0 and so on.

Why would there be any doubt about this? '2.0' is clearly a version number with a decimal point in it, and therefore it's self-evident that the separator between the two numbers is pronounced 'point'.

The confusion stems from the use of the word 'dot' by American speakers of English in phrases such as 'dot com',How to say 2.0, $3.49 and 802.3 'dot net' and so on. This is not common usage in Britain, and therefore people throughout the world who have been taught English by British English speakers are unsure when to say 'dot' and when to say 'point' — because their teachers were themselves unfamiliar with the usage. Come to think of it, the rest who were taught by American English speakers may be equally unsure, because their teachers never thought to mention it and it's not spelt out in any textbooks.

So while educated native speakers of American English intuitively know when to say 'dot' and when to say 'point', the rest of us have been rather in the dark. Here for the record, then, are the rules about when to use 'point' and when to use 'dot':

  • Use 'point' when you're talking about a decimal point in a number, eg version 2.0 or 16.9 percent (but not when the number is a sum of money, and if the position of the decimal point is obvious from the context, eg if your cup of coffee costs $3.49, you'll be asked for 'three forty-nine'). As with the money exception, it is also accepted usage to say just 'two oh' if the context makes it evident that what you mean is '2.0';
  • Use 'dot' when you're talking about a separator, whether between letters or numbers, eg a web address like zdnet.com is said 'zdnet dot com', and similarly a numeric IP address like 192.168.1.1 is said '192 dot 168 dot 1 dot 1'. This rule also explains why the name of an IEEE standard like 802.11 (WiFi) is spoken with a dot rather than a point: as one commenter posted in response to my poll, "the IEEE stuff usually ends in a letter, but yes, also a dot for specs that don't end in a letter like ethernet, 802.3."

As well as 'two point oh', other ways of saying the number 0 are allowed, such as 'two point zero' or (if you're British) 'two point nought'. But 'two point oh' is normal usage on both sides of the Atlantic, so it's the safest choice if you're unsure which to say when.

Remember that in other contexts, '.' has other names. At the end of a sentence, it's a 'period' in American English and a 'full stop' in British English, shortened to 'stop' in telegrams. And in banking, people say 'spot' when quoting exchange rates (eg '1 spot 9522 pounds to the dollar'). There are probably other examples I'm not aware of.

In writing this, I'm conscious that I should acknowledge my debt to one of my university teachers, Professor Randolph Quirk (now Baron Quirk), who established the Survey of English Usage at University College London, and who taught me all I know about the use of English. If you were wondering how a degree in English helps me write about technology, now you know.

Topic: Enterprise 2.0

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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8 comments
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  • 2.0.1

    So, version '2.0.1' is clearly a decimal point number???
    jdeering
    • Different use case

      > So, version '2.0.1' is clearly a decimal point number???

      Good question, but that's a different use case than the one I was considering. Most software versioning retains the decimal format even when going to a second decimal place, eg version 1.1, 2.01, 3.31.

      To answer your question, where a software developer has followed a decimal style version number format and then chooses to add another separator as in the example you give, then I suspect this would be said as 'two point oh dot one'. However if they routinely standardize on two separators -- eg 2.0.0, 2.0.1, 2.1.0, then this would be said 'two dot oh dot oh' and so on.
      phil wainewright
      • English English

        Speakers of English English would almost certainly read 2.0.0 as 'two point nought point nought' with a personal choice of word for the reading of nought.

        Simply English English speakers will, in nearly all cases, refer to a '.' as point if what it is separating consists entirely of numeric characters.

        Dot only tends to be used in reference to URLs.
        nmh
  • 3 Points (not 3.0 points!)

    1. If 2.0 is version number then the decimal point is redundant. All you need is a unique identifier for the version. Unfortunately many programmers who adopt such versioning number schemes seem to have failed the data management parts of their studies. The sequential relationship between versions is a separate issue from their uniqueness.

    2. In the popular (but highly misguided approach) to version number commonly used by many programmers there is the tendency to have version numbers like "6.0.2900.2180" - thereby implying that the redundant "." in 2.0 should be pronounced "dot" as version numbers have separators rather than decimal point.

    3. In Germany, if it is a decimal point, then it would be a comma. So Web 2.0 would be pronounced "Web zwei comma nul" and written "Web 2,0". I haven't done a survey among my colleagues but I think most people here would say "Web zwei punkt nul". Thereby implying that it is a separator.

    So let's just call it Web 2. The term is so vague as to be meaningless anyway.
    jorwell
    • In German, it's punkt

      > I think most people here would say "Web zwei punkt nul". Thereby implying that it is a separator.

      Fair enough, in German. All that tells me is that when speaking German (same applies in French) it can't be a decimal point so it must be a separator. That doesn't change how English speakers perceive it to be when they're speaking English. But it does help to explain why everyone else is so easily confused.
      phil wainewright
      • But what does the decimal point mean?

        If it is a decimal point, does this imply that a Web 1.5 may emerge? What would it mean for something to be Web 1.5?

        Isn't the decimal point an attempt to give some spurious exactness and technical credibility to what is essentially a desperately vague concept.
        jorwell
        • It makes an analogy

          The decimal point means that the name 'Web 2.0' or whatever is alluding to the practice of numbering software versions, and by analogy therefore it's implying that '[whatever] 2.0' is a next-generation version of what went before (which, further extending the analogy, in retrospect becomes '[whatever] 1.0').

          The decimal point is spurious to the extent that the analogy does not involve intervening sub-versions (eg 1.1, 1.5, etc) but if it wasn't there, there would be no allusion and therefore the analogy would fail.

          I know it all seems ludicrously vague and imprecise, but we are talking language here, not mathematics.
          phil wainewright
  • RE: 2.0 pronounced two point oh

    I don't see it has something to do who taught English who - English or American.

    Here in the Philippines:
    1) We were colonized by the Americans
    2) We developed our own unique English, universally accepted as "Philippine English" or "English (Philippines)" with lang encoding of "en-PH"
    3) Pronunciation of 2.0 or something.exe was never thought in schools

    But still, it is common knowledge when to use "point" and when to use "dot". And to add, we don't have English English influence (ie English UK).

    We say command.com (command dot com) or wordstar.exe (wordstar dot exe) since. In versioning, we've always used 1.5.24.x (1 point 5 point 24 [or 2; 4] point x).

    Weird? I dunno myself, but that's how it always have been here in the Philippines.

    ^_^
    Laibeus@...