Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

We’re normally pretty good about spotting redundancies when are speaking with someone. “The Vancouver resident resides in Vancouver” sounds quite silly, but it seems that a great deal of confusion can arise when you start adding some symbols or acronyms to the mix.

You might remember how we discussed the problem with saying “PIN number,” since “PIN” already stands for “personal identification number.” By saying “PIN number,” you’re effectively saying “personal identification number number.” Clearly, that’s incorrect.

Far too often, though, I’ll find people write things like “$5000 bucks.” Do you see the problem with that? In the head of the person who wrote that, it’s probably read as “five thousand bucks.” However, because of the dollar sign in front of the number, it’s really saying “five thousand dollars bucks.” In this way, you should choose between using the dollar sign ($) or the word “bucks,” rather than using both.

This is exactly the same case with something like “$2 million dollars.” Again, there is a dollar sign in front and the word “dollars” following. This results in “two million dollars dollars.” Again, this is redundant. The convention of putting the dollar sign in front is likely the cause of confusion; many other languages put the currency symbol after the numbers instead: 499€ instead of €499.

Using the acronyms for different currencies is much the same. The three-letter code already includes the name of the currency in it. USD stands for United States dollar, just as CAD stands for Canadian dollar and JPY stands for Japanese yen. As such, writing “$300 USD” is akin to saying “three hundred dollars United States dollars.”

If you need to denote the currency, you have a few options:

  • 300 USD
  • US$300
  • $300 US
  • 300 United States dollars
  • 300 American dollars

Any of those would be considered correct and acceptable. I tend to use the second one, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

This post has mostly been about money, but I’ve also seen issues with other symbols and acronyms. In the context of Canada, SIN stands for social insurance number, so you don’t need to say SIN number. Similarly, you don’t need to say “3pm in the afternoon.” It’s either “3 in the afternoon” or “3pm,” since either of these can be used convey the same information.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 topic? Leave your comment below!