Deirdre wrote: >Those two phrases sound overly complicated to me -- "numerical >characters" sounds like a complicated way of saying "numbers" and >ditto "alpha characters" for "letters."
Well, if we're going to be completely accurate, we should distinguish numerals and digits, which are symbols, from numbers. For example, the arabic "8" and the roman "VIII" are different numerals, but they stand for the same number, namely, the number eight. ("eight", "huit", "otto" are different words; they all stand for the same number). The numerals and words stand for numbers, they aren't themselves numbers. There's a section of the Chicago Manual of Style hilariously titled "Punctuation of Numbers". I wonder how you punctuate the number eight? "Numerical character" is ghastly stylistically, and also ambiguous. Without further context, there's no way of knowing whether the user intends it to apply just to digits, or to all arabic numerals (the non-digits are sequences or strings of digits), or even to the numerals of different notational systems. "Alpha characters" is also ambiguous. It ought just to mean "letters", as you say, so why not use the familiar word? But I've seen the term "alphanumeric character" used to include punctuation and other ascii symbols, so I suppose "alpha character" could include the non-numeric ones. Maybe you should make a polite suggestion to your author, if that's possible! Best, Graeme