Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blood alcohol content

This recently updated thread from Testy Copy Editors is worth a read. It points out a couple of facts about blood alcohol content that are often wrong.

First, it's not a percentage. There's some math involved here that you can get at TCE, but it comes down to this: The measurement is of grams (of alcohol) per deciliter (of blood), and that doesn't work out to be a percentage. (Blood and alcohol each have a different densities from water.)

Second, it's a measurement of the alcohol content of the blood. A hyphen between blood and alcohol isn't necessary.


At 9:57 PM, December 01, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

Perhaps too subtle for newspaper work, but the hyphen suddenly becomes correct when "content" or an equivalent isn't the noun -- "based on the blood-alcohol finding," for instance.

At 10:08 PM, December 01, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Nothing is too subtle for newspaper work! Mwahahah.

At 1:27 AM, December 02, 2005, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

The next question is: Should we include the unit label every time we report a blood alcohol content, as in “a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood”? I think not. For the most part, "a blood alcohol content of 0.08" will do. It’s rather like when we report a batting average: “Damon was hitting .302 coming into the game,” not “302 hits per 1,000 at-bats.” (The analogy isn’t perfect, but I think the precedent is useful.)

At 1:58 AM, December 03, 2005, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

... And shouldn't we make it "concentration" instead of "content"?

At 8:16 PM, December 07, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

"Concentration" seems to make more sense literally.

Then again, "content" and "level" aren't wrong, and the idea here is generally understood.


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