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Capitalizing Unit Abbreviations

```Date: 09/15/2003 at 12:11:38
From: Ricky
Subject: Metric Measurement

Why do we use a lowercase m to abbreviate meters, but an uppercase L
to abbreviate liters?

Actually, I've always seen both used either way.  Which is right?  Or
are they both right?
```

```
Date: 09/15/2003 at 15:22:54
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Metric Measurement

Hi, Ricky.

The m is always lower case, but the L may be either. See this page:

http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/units/dictL.html

liter or litre (L or l)
the common metric unit of volume. ... Both the lower case letter l
and the upper case L are accepted as symbols for the liter, but
the U.S. Department of Commerce specifies that L be used, at least
by businesses, to avoid confusion with the numeral 1. The unit is
spelled liter in the U.S. and litre in Britain; there are many
other spellings in various languages (see Spelling of Metric
Units).

http://ts.nist.gov/ts/htdocs/200/202/metrsty3.htm

Capitals
Units: The names of all units start with a lower case letter
except, of course, at the beginning of the sentence. There is one
exception: in "degree Celsius" (symbol °C) the unit "degree" is
lower case but the modifier "Celsius" is capitalized. Thus, body
temperature is written as 37 degrees Celsius.

Symbols: Unit symbols are written in lower case letters except for
liter and those units derived from the name of a person (m for
meter, but W for watt, Pa for pascal, etc.).

Prefixes: Symbols of prefixes that mean a million or more are
capitalized and those less than a million are lower case (M for
mega (millions), m for milli (thousandths)).

There is some variation in preference between countries:

http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/correct.htm

The symbol for liter (or litre) may be either a capital el (L) or
a lowercase el (l); both are correct. In the U.S., Canada, and
Australia, the capital el (L) is preferred, but most other nations
use the lowercase el (l).

This gives a nice explanation for Liter:

http://www.metricamerica.com/symbols.htm

Please Note: Where symbols are used convention has it that they
are always lower case letters except where the Base Unit is named
after a person like Celsius (°C), Pascal (P) or Newton (N). Then
the symbol is noted by a CAPITAL LETTER.
So what's with a capital letter "L" for liter?
Is that a capital "L" for the unit of measure named after a person?

No....

You see, when decimal dimensions were described long before the
typewriter you would have to write the script "l".

But as technology came along it became apparent that typewriters
were not equipped with the script "l" so attempts were made to use
the lower case "l" (el).

Then it became further confusing to write "1l" (lower case "el")
as the "1" and "l" (el) looked too similar as did the capital "I"
(eye).

So the capital "L" was chosen as the symbol for the derived base
unit "liter".

If you have any further questions, feel free to write back.

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics:
Elementary Terms & Units of Measurement
Middle School Terms/Units of Measurement

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