Posted by: episystechpubs | July 15, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Cardinal, Ordinal, and Nominal Numbers

Today’s topic is numbers—or names for numbers. The three we’re looking at are cardinal, ordinal, and nominal numbers.

Cardinal numbers are what most of us are used to when we talk about numbers. Cardinal numbers are whole numbers, used for counting how many of something you have, such as one, two, three, four, etc. Cardinal numbers do not include fractions or decimal points. For example:

There were seven puppies in Sylvie’s first litter.

A helpful hint: cardinal and count both begin with the letter C.

The next ones in the lineup are ordinal numbers. Ordinal numbers tell you what position or order something is in, such as first, second, third (or 1st, 2nd, 3rd). For example:

Blinky, the runt, is the second dog from the left.

A helpful hint: ordinal numbers give you the order things are in.

Lastly, we have nominal numbers. Now this seems kind of odd, but nominal is from the Latin word for name. A nominal number is used as a name or identifier. It is not for counting or for telling you the position something is in. It can be a single number or group of numbers, but the value of the numbers is irrelevant. For example:

  • Inmate 1005

  • ZIP Code (92123)
  • Model number 146
  • Social Security Number (999-99-9999)
  • Telephone number (619) 542-6700
  • Employee ID number (123456)
  • Etc.

A helpful hint: nominal and name both begin with the letter N.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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