Three modes of reporting 14C activities are in use, in part analogous to the internationally accepted (IAEA) conventions for stable isotopes: (1) absolute activity, the specific activity of 14C or the activity per gram of carbon; (2) activity ratio, the ratio between the absolute activities of a sample and the standard; and (3) relative activity, the difference between the absolute activities of a sample and standard material, relative to the absolute standard activity. The basic definitions originate from decisions made by the radiocarbon community at its past conferences. Stuiver and Polach (1977) reviewed and sought to specify the definitions and conventions. Several colleagues, however, have experienced inadequacies and pitfalls in the definitions and use of symbols. Furthermore, the latter have to be slightly amended because of the use of modern measuring techniques.
This paper is intended to provide a consistent set of reporting symbols and definitions, illustrated by some practical examples.