180 Degrees? 360 Degrees? Where Are We Again?

Sometimes people use the terms 180 degrees and 360 degrees to explain situations in a person’s life. This comes from the idea of a circle, which has 360 degrees. However, it is a common error to use 360 degrees when one means 180 degrees.

If you want to explain that a situation is opposite from what it was, use 180 degrees because this indicates a half circle (or think of it as a half turn, where you are standing in the opposite direction as you were from the start).

Example: Steve really cleaned up his act. Now he never misses class and he does all his homework. He’s really gone 180 degrees.

If you want to explain that a situation is back to its original state, use 360 degrees. Think again of the circle. If one goes 360 degrees, one makes an entire circle, or turn, and is back in the original position.

Example: Steve is back to his old ways. He skips class and doesn’t turn in his homework. He’s really gone 360 degrees.

Fill in either 180 or 360 in the blanks below. The answers are at the bottom.

1. Martha has made a _______-degree turn in her life. She has lost 400 pounds, has stopped eating junk food, and exercises daily.
2. Zelda didn’t learn from her mistakes. She has gone _______ degrees.
3. Martin made a _______. He’s back to huffing glue and listening to that darn rock and roll music.
4. Chloe has stopped beating up her little sister and setting the house on fire. Now she even helps old ladies cross the street. She has really gone _______ degrees.

1) 180 2) 360 3) 360 4) 180

Erin Servais is a freelance copywriter and copy editor at Dot and Dash. LLC. She writes articles and email blasts; she edits books and websites. To learn how to hire her for your next project, go to: dotanddashllc.com.

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15 thoughts on “180 Degrees? 360 Degrees? Where Are We Again?

  1. Just to throw some fun around, in the aviation world 360 is also referred to at 0 (zero). So, if you want to make the leap, you could say someone has done zero when they do a 360 🙂


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  4. When referring to a circle to describe a complete change in a person, you should say, “She made a complete 360.”

    A 360-degree change is referring to the idea of a complete change, something totally different, and/or the opposite of what something/someone used to be. It is not about physically moving around the circumference of a circle and coming back to the same spot, therefore indicating no change.

    The sentence, “She made a complete 180” to describe a complete change in someone is incorrect, as 180 degrees is not complete.

    It seems that people who say, “She made a complete 180” are referring to the physical point that is opposite from where they started, which may describe the opposite extreme, but not a complete change.


    • Why would we use an incorrect definition to describe an action? Turning around in every other sense, including while driving, would require a 180-degree turn, not 360. Should we really say it incorrectly to placate those who do not understand the concept?


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  6. When one makes a 360 they come back to where they started. When one makes a 180 they are opposite where they started. 360 may be slang for complete turnabout but it is still based on a circle – actual movement or not.


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