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!


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