The European Decimal Comma is Wrong

There are many things we Americans do badly. We won't give ourselves a health care system that makes sense. We die on our roads more than other advanced countries. We kill ourselves and others with guns way more than any other country. We stubbornly stick to Imperial units when Metric units and its powers of ten make much more sense.

There are a few things we do better, however. American National Parks are far beyond anything any other country has. The Americans with Disabilities Act is superlative when compared to the feeble efforts of even the most advanced European countries. Our popular culture, for better or worse, is able to make it to even the most remote corners of the world.

I want to highlight one thing that many Europeans do that is absolutely, 100% wrong, that Americans do right (or at least not incorrectly, as I'll explain below). In Europe, the number 12345/10 is written


while here in the land of freedom, we write it


Europeans are wrong because they are inconsistent. Like most of the world, they use a period "." to indicate the end of a sentence and a comma "," mid-sentence for phrasing. Periods are used between sentences to separate ideas, concepts, and thoughts. If we compare this to numbers, there's a big jump in concept from whole, countable integers, to less-than-one decimal numbers. Children learn whole numbers many years before learning decimals, and the whole time they're also learning to read. Learning that periods between sentences indicate a jump to a new thought or concept. Like sentences, Americans use periods to separate big ideas in numbers, specifically between integers and decimals. And this is why the European comma is wrong, and Americans are not wrong. Americans use a comma in a number to indicate groups of thousands (phrasing) and periods to indicate decimal numbers (new concept), which is consistent with how sentences are written.

There's really no defense to the European decimal comma, and frankly their refusal to fix it is just as bad as the many (many!) things Americans do wrongly.