The Price is not Right

You’re on holiday, maybe in Spain or Italy, and you want to buy something in a shop. No problem, you have a few basic phrases to survive in that situation. So you go find it on the shelf, but before you take it to the counter you check the price because you know the prices can be different from home. And what’s this? It costs…


Well, it’s not expensive for what it is (let’s say it’s, oh, a hairdryer), but look at that comma! I have to admit that I hate to see prices written that way, and much prefer the English-language form of €15.99. I know that everyone on Continental Europe uses the comma (and likewise, uses a decimal point in prices in the thousands), but I really don’t like it. It just seems cheaper, less important, less valuable. Maybe it’s because a comma is so transient, so easily disposed of. Yes, you can use it to separate two non-independent clauses, or just to provide a nice pause for your reader, but often as not, you can decide to do without it. And who wants that for a price!? It’s so flimsy, why you would want it for something as important as a price? How could you trust something with a comma in its price enough to buy it?

I know it’s irrational of me, and both a comma and a full stop are perfectly useful pieces of punctuation which have their own important functions. And yet, I have this prejudice against the comma and, well, I wouldn’t trust it with my money.

6 thoughts on “The Price is not Right

  1. […] Use commas with numbers in the thousands or more. Makes sense, as it makes it easier to identify the value of a number with a lot of digits. Though personally I like to use words when dealing with millions or higher, as it’s quicker to understand than counting zeroes (though for a number without many zeroes, like four million, nine-hundred and eighty three thousand, four-hundred and sixty-eight, 4,983,468 is obviously better. […]


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