Deirdre Reagan wrote:

> Here's what I'm talking about:
> 
> "Move the part numbers that begin with a numerical character to the
> end of the list after the part numbers that begin with an alpha
> character."
> 
> I'm just wondering how widespread this usage is.  Are these terms just
> in my documents in my company, and I should make the correction, or do
> technical writers the world over use "alpha characters" to refer to
> letters and "numerical characters" to refer to numbers?

Lots of people -- even some tech writers -- think their writing sounds
more formal and educated if they avoid short, simple, direct words and
statements. It's true that in some contexts, like programming, you need
to distinguish between, for instance, integers and numeric characters. 

But this is not that kind of context. In this context, "letter" and
"number" are far better. But to avoid repeating "number," I'd use the
equally clear "digit":

"Move the part numbers that begin with a digit to the end of the list
after the part numbers that begin with a
letter."

IMHO, YMMV, etc.

Richard


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
303-223-5111
------
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom
303-777-0436
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