If I have a list of numbers 24 x 105, 15 x 105, 2 x 105, etc. In a medical journal article, is it acceptable to write 24, 15, and 2 x 105?

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    I think that it would be rather confusing to use this approach in the text of publication. If you would be using such numbers in a tabular format, though, you could specify common multiplier in the appropriate column's header and use base numbers as corresponding cells' values. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 10:24
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    In my field, the notation a(b) to represent a x 10<sup>b</sup>is common for tables with variable exponents. There would always be an explanatory note in the table, however. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 21:20
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    Shouldn't that be 2.4 x 10^6, 1.5 x 10^6, etc. ?
    – dramzy
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


Short answer: No. It is not acceptable, because it is confusing. There are examples when a list of data points includes 3x105 and 5x100 at the same time --- how can the reader be sure how to interpret what you suggest?

If you insist on using it, you have to get around the confusion in some way. One of the used tricks is if you make it in a table:

 Experiment           1    2    3    4    5
 Value (in 10^5 kg)  24   15   3.1   8   40

This way you make it clear that the multiplier 105 applies to all values. This is mostly usable for large data sheets. For couple values like you show, I would stick to the standard notation and keep the multipliers with each value.

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    You don't need a table to do so, just like this: "the values of the experiences, in 10^5 kg, are 24, 15, so on"
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 6:09
  • @Ooker I would be quite unhappy about such a presentation of the data (with my copy editor hat on), it's still borderline unclear.
    – yo'
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 12:53
  • I can't see why it's unclear. Can you elaborate your thought?
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 13:18

Acceptable styles for anything, including the treatment of exponents, tend to vary journal to journal - the only certain way to know which method of expressing the exponents would be to consult the style guide to see if there is any guideline mentioned (on a link with something like 'Author Guide' or similar).

Due to readability, I very much doubt that it would be acceptable (I have never seen exponents written in such a way in journals).

  • Thanks to everyone. I will advise the author to avoid this style.
    – Gary Baley
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 12:51
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    "the only certain way to know ..." - as often in this kind of cases, it should be noted that styleguides are by no means guaranteed to contain any such information. This might vary between fields, but at least in my CS-subfield, styleguides only nail down things that likely concern all or almost all papers (such as capitalization or spacing between paragraphs and floats). That is, the styleguide should be checked, but in the IMHO quite likely case that it doesn't mention the issue, the last paragraph is probably correct. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 14:29
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    @O.R.Mapper in my fields (spread over several journals of different disciplines), the use of exponents are specifically mentioned. I am edited in a mention to check if there is anything mentioned there.
    – user41783
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 14:38
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    @Ghost: I see. ACM, Springer, and IEEE are examples of publishers who, for at least some fields in CS, do not provide any such detailed guidelines, but other publishers may well provide longer instructions. Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 14:48
  • True, but it would not hurt to check to see if some guideline is written there.
    – user41783
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 14:52

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