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Unit names
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Unit symbols
Unit names
Rules and style conventions for expressing values of quantities

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SI brochure, Section 5.2


Unit names are normally printed in roman (upright) type, and they are treated like ordinary nouns. In English, the names of units start with a lower-case letter (even when the symbol for the unit begins with a capital letter), except at the beginning of a sentence or in capitalized material such as a title. In keeping with this rule, the correct spelling of the name of the unit with the symbol °C is "degree Celsius" (the unit degree begins with a lower-case d and the modifier Celsius begins with an upper-case C because it is a proper name).

Although the values of quantities are normally expressed using symbols for numbers and symbols for units, if for some reason the unit name is more appropriate than the unit symbol, the unit name should be spelled out in full.

When the name of a unit is combined with the name of a multiple or sub-multiple prefix, no space or hyphen is used between the prefix name and the unit name. The combination of prefix name plus unit name is a single word. See also Section 3.1.

In both English and in French, however, when the name of a derived unit is formed from the names of individual units by multiplication, then either a space or a hyphen is used to separate the names of the individual units.

In both English and in French modifiers such as "squared" or "cubed" are used in the names of units raised to powers, and they are placed after the unit name. However, in the case of area or volume, as an alternative the modifiers "square" or "cubic" may be used, and these modifiers are placed before the unit name, but this applies only in English.

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Note: For the official text, please refer to the PDF files available at:
  • http://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/si_brochure_8_en.pdf (in English) and
  • http://www.bipm.org/utils/common/pdf/si_brochure_8_fr.pdf (in French).
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