Thursday, June 04, 2015


German technical texts tend to be 'littered' with the abbreviation "ca.". For some reason, which escapes me right now, I used to have a preference for 'rendering' this as "approx." in English. However, this can be 'awkward' (i.e. too long) in tables etc. The New Oxford Style Manual has this to say on the matter:
"The Latin circa, meaning 'about', is used in English mainly with dates and quantities. Set the italicized abbreviation c. close up to any figures following (c.1020, c.£10,400), but spaced from words and letters (c. AD 44). In discursive prose it is usually preferable to use about or some when describing quantities".  
Further discussions with other linguists led to the conclusion that circa / c. is indeed mostly seen in relation to dates in English texts. See also relevant Wikipedia entry. More generally, it seems that the New Oxford Style Manual tends to be geared towards non-technical texts. So, back to "approx."...