On a building near my apartment there is a sign advertising commercial space for rent. It used to advertise a State Farm office, but after the State Farm and the Allstate agents, keeping offices in the same building, fell in love (amid the drudge of late nights at their offices, they discovered each other’s passion for life insurance), they joined forces, and the State Farm office moved across the street. I assume the sign will be adopted again by whatever business rents the space next. The odd thing about it now is what it currently says:
1000 to 2000 sq′
The error is sensical—it’s a transcription of how “square foot” is said aloud—but everything about it is wrong. The signmaker applied a unit of measure (the single-prime, signifying “foot”) to an operation. Even maintaining the notation the signmaker used, nobody does this. Single-primes always follow numerals, as in “5′6″.” Why it seemed right to undermine normal practice in this case, I can only guess.
If it were a question of space, the sign maker could have used the real abbreviation “ft2,” but even if he or she were ignorant of that, there would be space enough to write “1000–2000 sq. ft.”
Today’s pedantry is
not brought to you by the Council of Science Editors.