Reading your letters to Consumerist, we get a sense of the global consumer zeitgeist. We have seen the number of complaints about different products rise and fall, and we’ve observed changes in how people talk about their finances, their possessions, and the stuff they buy. It’s from that perspective that we plead with consumers, marketers, and even news site editors all at once: you can use a currency word or a currency symbol, but stop using both together.
What are we on about? In American English, the currency symbol goes before the number. When reading out loud, you pronounce “$5” as “five dollars.” What we’ve noticed creeping into the language everywhere is people covering their bases by including both the symbol and the word. This is wrong.
We first began to notice it in tipline e-mails. Here are a few examples.
A reader talking about his credit card: “The original balance was low, less than $300 dollars and the missed minimum payment was pocket change in the amount of about $30.”
A reader seeking purchase protection from Visa: “now i’m out the bow i originally bought and $150 dollars with nothing to show for it but a bunch of emails and wasted time and unnecessary frustration.”
How about a press release? The company names here are redacted to protect the innocent clients: “In one contest, [redacted] will award some $50 thousand dollars worth of [redacted] products to students…’
That’s informal English, though, right? We noticed it on a news site (which has since been corrected) last night, which was bad, but it would be hypocritical of us to criticize someone for a later-corrected typo.
UPDATE: In an Associated Press article sent in by a reader overnight, we see the following sentence: “The Convention and Visitors Bureau says about $2 million dollars is spent at local businesses during powwow weekend, which ran Thursday through Sunday.’
Was it a typo, though, or is our language evolving in ways that make cranky old editors crankier? Today came the final straw. From Dairy Queen’s web site, this monstrosity:
Word. Symbol. Pick one and only one.