Is this kind of abbreviation correct usage (e.g. 10sec pause, 12h race, 10yr lease, 6day penalty)? Or must these examples read "4 min egg, 10 sec pause" etc,?

  • 2
    In a newspaper article, for example, one would expect to find the words spelled out and hyphenated: "twelve-hour race" and "four-minute egg". Specialized technical and academic journals normally specify a stylesheet. There are no rules, only conventions.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 9:18
  • 1
    This is largely a matter of style; adhere to the guidance of your editor, organization, or preferred style manual. In other words, there is no consensus.
    – choster
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 18:30
  • 6day definitely feels wrong to me -- it's not even an abbreviation. If anything, it should be 6-day.
    – Ringo
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


According to this document which relates to technical publications:

Write the number in figures, followed by a nonbreaking space. Then write the prefix symbol and the unit symbol with appropriate capitalization and no spaces: 3.58 MHz, 2.2 μF, 75 Ω. Use nonbreaking spaces to prevent clumsy line breaks such as the break between 2.2 and μF above.

This rule is more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

  • 1
    I agree with you about the rule being frequently breached: I'm used to seeing and writing 10cm, 5kg, 30s, etc., not 10 cm, 5 kg, 30 s. But note that the examples in the question don't use the SI unit symbols, they use longer abbreviations that are more like words ("day" isn't even an abbreviation), so because they look more like words I would definitely use a space or a hyphen for them.
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 7:32
  • Following the link suggested I learn several things: expressions like "h", "min" and "s" are not in fact abbreviations but international standard (SI) symbols, they do not form plurals and are not used with hyphens but with spaces (12 h, 10 s), whereas expressions like "sec" and "yr are "merely" abbreviations and less subject to standardisation, so all the following should be usable: 10sec 10secs 10 sec 10 secs 10-sec 10-secs ten sec ten secs. Right?
    – Ken Wilson
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:33
  • 1
    Some of those look pretty nasty to me. Do you really need to abbreviate? What's wrong with "10 seconds"? If you really need to abbreviate, I would be inclined to listen to @TRomano and try to find a style sheet that is appropriate for where you intend to publish.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 17:09
  • As a programmer who often deals with time written in a technical way, I'd say it's way more common to see 10s than 10 s. And 10 sec is more common than 10sec. I think this is because "sec" is not the most common abbreviation for seconds, "s" is. Another example would be "10Kb", which is more common than "10 Kbytes". At least in my world.
    – Ringo
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 19:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .