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Answers to Go with Susan Smith

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Q. My favorite radio station includes a stock report at the end of each day. The announcer says that the Dow is up three points or the New York Stock Exchange is down a point. What is a “point”? Some part of a percent?

A. I did a keyword search of our online catalog with the terms: stock market point. Up popped “Wall Street Words: An Essential A to Z Guide for Today’s Investor” by David L. Scott.

Scott defines point as a “measure of security price changes. In the case of stock and stock averages, a point usually means a change of $1; for bonds, a point refers to a $10 movement for a $1,000 bond.”

The patron and I weren’t expecting that answer. For confirmation, we turned to the dictionary sitting on the reference desk, “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language” published in 2016.

I was surprised to see there were 34 definitions of the word point.

Here is definition 23a: “A unit equal to one dollar used to quote or state variations in the current prices of stocks or commodities.”

Definition 23b caught my eye: “Unit equal to one percent, used to quote or state interest rates or shares in gross profits. One percent of the total principal of a loan paid up front to the lender and considered separate from the interest.”

That second definition is probably the one that led the patron (and me) to expect the stock market point to have some reference to a percent.

Q. Susan, shouldn’t you have been consistent in using the quotation marks around the term “point”?

A . Funny you should ask. I was just wondering that myself.

I have had good luck Googling my spelling and grammar questions so I used this rather inelegant search: define the word point is there quotation marks.

Below you will see the answer I found at Radford's website.

“The Quotation-Mark Litmus Test: Replace the word in question with a synonym; if this doesn't change the gist of the sentence, then quotes are inappropriate.”

As you can see by reviewing the first question, I didn’t take the advice of Dr. Ian Barland at Virginia’s Radford University. I believe he would recommend quotations around “point” throughout.

In this case, I am going to plead “artistic license.”

Note the quotation marks. What do you think?

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