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What is the difference between the UK and US ton?

What is the difference between the UK and US ton?

The Imperial System of units is a mystery to most of us! After all, very few countries still use Imperial weights and measurements; and those that do, are sometimes inconsistent in their usage. In the UK, for example, people are accustomed to buying a pint of milk, but a litre of orange juice. Furthermore, the imperial weights (and units of volume) used in the USA are different from those used in the UK!

A common source of confusion to translators and engineers alike is the difference between the UK and the US ton. In the US and Canada, a ton is equal to 20 hundredweight; which means it weighs 2000 pounds, or 907.185 kilograms.

In the UK, confusingly, there are 112 pounds to the hundredweight, and therefore 2240 pounds (1016.047 kg) to the ton.

A ton (or tun) originally meant a wine cask of the largest capacity. It was the traditional unit of measurement for the carrying capacity of a ship. This probably explains why the UK ton is so imprecise a quantity: casks were not a standard size, and it was only intended to give a general idea of the volume of a ship’s hold.

To distinguish between these two measures, a UK ton is called a long ton, while a US ton is a short ton.

Naturally, the metric tonne (Spanish: una tonelada, French une tonne) is another weight altogether, namely 1000 kg, or megagram. The metric tonne may also be spelt ton but (in standard English, at least) the pronunciation does not change.

Why does it matter?

In technical documents it is vital that the weights and measurements are translated accurately. A mistranslation could result in (at best) dissatisfied customers, or (worse) legal action or even injury. At Quicksilver Translate, we always and only work with translators who are translating into their native language. For technical documentation, we only use translators with expertise in engineering, or an appropriate field for the content.

The hallmark of a quality technical manual translation is that there is no ambiguity, the text is short and concise, there is consistency in terminologies used across the document, in addition to a consistent spelling, grammar and semantic structure and above all, the translated technical manual is super-helpful to users.

Find out more: Translating large technical documents

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