# Fractions, Decimals, and Money

Rule: Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them.

Example: One-half of the pies have been eaten.

Rule: A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence.

Example: We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase.
Example: Five and one-half percent was the maximum allowable interest.

Rule: Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.

Example: Forty-three people were injured in the train wreck.

Rule: Replace a decimal point with and when you write out amounts on a check. You may use numerals in fraction form for cents.

Example: Fifty-two and 46/100 (“Dollars” will already be printed at the end of the line.)

Rule: Express large numbers simply. Be careful to be consistent within a sentence.

Correct: You can earn from one million to five million dollars.
Incorrect: You can earn from one million to \$5,000,000.
Correct: You can earn from \$500 to \$5,000,000.
Correct: You can earn from five hundred dollars to five million dollars.
Incorrect: You can earn from \$500 to five million dollars.

Rule: Write decimals in figures. Place a zero in front of a decimal as a courtesy to the reader.

Example: The plant grew 0.79 of a foot in one year.
Example: The plant grew only 0.07 of a foot this year because of the drought.

Pop Quiz: Correct or incorrect?

1. Eighty one people were injured in the train accident.
2. I wrote a check for \$300, not \$3,000.00.
3. Hair grows one fourth of an inch per month.
4. The tree grew .95 of a foot because of a wet winter.

Pop Quiz Answers: All sentences were incorrect.

1. Eighty-one
2. \$3,000 (no .00)
3. one-fourth
4. 0.95

Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008, at 11:22 pm

66 Comments on Fractions, Decimals, and Money

### 66 responses to “Fractions, Decimals, and Money”

1. Brandi Bergheimer says:

I was wondering if it was supposed to be five and a half or five and a half? I remember that there was some funky rule about ‘A’ verses “AN” in this type of setting. Please help. Thank you Brandi

• Jane says:

I think you mistyped but the correct way to write this is as follows: five and a half.

• irvan says:

If i write down five a half is that same with 5 1/2?thanks before

• No, the correct way to write out the fraction 5 1/2 is “five and one-half.”

• Laura says:

Hi Jane,

How do you correctly refer to different currencies, especially when writing to an international (but English-literate) audience? Many countries use the dollar sign, for example, but it isn’t necessarily the US dollar that is being referenced. Which, if any, of the following is (are) correct?
USD100
USD 100
USD\$100
USD \$100
\$100 USD
\$100USD

• Since the abbreviation USD stands for “US dollars,” and the dollar sign means “dollars,” using them together is redundant. We are not aware of any generally accepted standardization in this area, but from what we’ve seen, we recommend writing USD100, USD 100, US\$100, or US\$ 100, staying consistent within your document.

2. Tristan says:

I was wondering if there are any rules regarding where the dollar sign should go when using parenthesis to display a negative number. Is it \$(500) or (\$500)? The “Accounting” format in excel would display it as: \$(500). Is that correct? Are both acceptable?

• Jane says:

The use of parentheses to indicate a negative number is typically seen on spreadsheets, not in formal writing, to which my rules apply. Rule 1 in the Parentheses section of GrammarBook.com says, “Use parentheses to enclose words or figures that clarify or are used as an aside.” Thus, in formal writing, parentheses would not indicate a negative number.

Example: I expect five hundred dollars (\$500).

In most formal writing, use the minus sign to indicate a negative number.
Example: -\$500

• Michael says:

In reference to negative numbers in paragraphs, where is the source of your information that provides the support that negative numbers should not be in parenthesis for formal writing?

• We are unable to find any authoritative source that recommends the use of parentheses with negative numbers in formal writing. As shown in Rule 1 of Parentheses and Brackets on our website, parentheses are normally used in sentences to enclose information that is clarifying or used as an aside. Our example is: He gave me a nice bonus (\$500). It would be confusing to use parentheses to indicate negative numbers in formal writing. However, parentheses are commonly seen to indicate negative numbers in tabular formats such as spreadsheets.

3. Bill says:

Dear Jane,

Isn’t it “one-million to five-million dollars?” Aren’t one- and five-million compound adjectival modifiers?

Thanks,
Bill

• Jane says:

As described in our blog “Numbers as Adjectives,” you would hyphenate when a number and a measurement unit taken together form an adjective, that is, when they describe another object. An example would be “a five-million-dollar deficit.”

• Bill says:

Doesn’t my previous point stand? To use your example — five-million-dollar deficit — isn’t it equally appropriate to hyphenate, e.g., five-dollar deficit? Therefore, my original example, ” one-million to five-million dollars,” (originally yours without hyphens) stands, and, in fact, would be better expressed thusly: “one- to five-million dollars.” ??

Thanks. Lots of fun.

• Jane says:

Grammatically speaking, there is no difference between five million dollars, 12 hours, 25 yards, four pounds, etc. They are simply numbers with their unit definitions. The important phrases from the “Numbers As Adjectives” blog that I used below is, “hyphenate when a number and a measurement unit taken together form an adjective, that is, when they describe another object.”

Notice the difference between:
five million dollars vs. five-million-dollar deficit (or five-dollar deficit, quantity doesn’t matter)
12 hours vs. a 12-hour shift
25 yards vs. a 25-yard lead
four pounds vs. a four-pound hammer

Similarly, in expressing a range:
Next year, we expect our deficit to range from one to five million dollars. vs. Next year, we expect a one- to five-million-dollar deficit.

• Bill says:

I submit that the phrases “four-pound hammer” and “five-million dollars” are identical: the noun in each case is modified by a compound adjectival modifier, thus requiring the hyphen in each case.

If the two phrases differ, it is not a structural or contextual difference. Wherein, then, the difference? What am I not seeing?

This is great fun.

Bill

P.S.

“Grammatically speaking, there is no difference between five million dollars, 12 hours, 25 yards, four pounds, etc.”

Au contraire. The difference between, e.g., “five million dollars” and “12 hours” is precisely grammatical: “12,” in the latter observation, is a simple adjectival modifier; “five million” is a compound modifier, thus requiring a hyphen.

• Jane says:

What you are not seeing is that four-pound hammer and five million dollars are not identical. Four is a number, five million is a number. Just because it takes two words to express the number five million, does not make it a compound adjective. Our blogs “Hyphens with Numbers” and “Numbers as Adjectives” explain this in more detail. I recommend that you read those blogs carefully along with the comments. The rule says, “When you are combining two or more words to form a compound adjective in front of a noun, put hyphens between these words.” The two words “four-pound” form a compound adjective in front of the noun “hammer.” The two words “five million” in front of dollars do not form a compound adjective. They simply form a number, a single adjective in front of dollars.

4. Stefanie says:

In the Grammar books I use, the rule for fractions states that when the fraction is being used as an adjective, you hyphenate it. (Ex. Two-thirds majority won the vote.)
When you use the fraction as a noun, you don’t use the hyphen. (Ex. Two thirds of the pie was eaten. Two thirds here is the subject and therefore gets no hyphen.)

• Jane says:

The style manuals that we consulted do not agree with you. The Chicago Manual of Style’s rule (9.14) says, “Simple fractions are spelled out. For the sake of readability and to lend an appearance of consistency, they are hyphenated in noun, adjective, and adverb forms. In the rare event that individual parts of a quantity are emphasized, however, as in the last example, the fraction is spelled open.”

She has read three-fourths of the book.
Four-fifths of the students are boycotting the class.
I do not want all of your material; two-thirds is quite enough.
A two-thirds majority is required.
but
We divided the cake into four quarters; I took three quarters, and my brother one.

Also, The Associated Press Stylebook says, “Spell out amounts less than 1 . . ., using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths, etc.”

5. Ha Nguyen says:

Dear Jane,
I am studying a fraction and I ask you how to use a fraction
For example,
1) 3/4 of an egg is ripe. Is it right ?
(I am wondering 3/4 of + N, N may be countable or uncountable) and N must be definite ?
2) How to use percent is the same way as such 3/4

• Jane says:

A fraction or percentage is normally used with a countable noun. An egg cannot be ripe nor can it be easily divided into three quarters (unless it’s hard boiled). I have never seen a recipe that calls for a fraction of an egg. You could say 3/4 cup of egg whites, 3/4 of the eggs are brown, or 75% of the eggs are brown.

6. Lynn Weston says:

Is it correct to use fractions with metric units and vice versa? Ex: 205.5 pounds or 1/2 cm Thanks.

• Jane says:

It is correct to use decimals with metric units, but not fractions. Fractions are acceptable in the United States customary unit system, however, if you are including conversions you should be consistent and use only decimals. Examples:
.5 cm
72.5 kg
2 1/2 lbs. OR 2.5 lbs.
5 1/2 ft. OR 5.5 ft.

7. Paula Barnett says:

How would I write “A \$30 dollar donation is requested.” Is that correct or should I write out thirty? Also, is there a hyphen between \$30 and dollar since it’s modifying donation?

• Jane says:

The dollar sign (\$) indicates “dollar.” We do recommend a hyphen in the spelled-out version, since it is a compound adjective.
A \$30 donation is requested. OR
A thirty-dollar donation is requested.

8. cindy says:

How would I write \$4,200,000? Do I round down? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

• Jane says:

The simplest way to express large numbers is usually best. We recommend writing the number as you have written it. Or you could use Associated Press style, which would write it “\$4.2 million.”

9. Alex says:

Is a hyphen required when writing out \$4 dollars.
Ex. Four-dollars.
Ex. Four-dollars and 50 cents
Thirty-four dollars and 50 cents

• Since four dollars is not a compound adjective, do not hyphenate. The number thirty-four is hyphenated. We recommend that you be consistent with using numerals or spelling out numbers:
Four dollars and fifty cents OR \$4.50
Thirty-four dollars and fifty cents OR \$34.50

10. Dru says:

Is there a rule for awkwardly cumbersome fractions? Specifically, if something is measured as 837 feet 8 13/64 inches long, how is that written? I’ve seen the following variations. Are any of them correct?

“…measured 837 feet 8 13/64 inches long…”
“…measured 837 feet 8 and 13/64 inches long…”
“…measured 837 feet 8-13/64 inches…”

Thanks!

• Although the style books do not specifically refer to whole numbers with fractions as complex as the one in your sentence, we recommend writing “…measured 837 feet 8 13/64 inches long…”.

11. Kristin says:

Are inches and feet referred to correctly in the following sentences?

The art will be created with 160 three inch anodized aluminum pipes that a one-quarter inch wall. The sculpture will be approximately 15′ x 50′ x 12′. The pipes will be submerged 5′ into the ground and are aluminum so there will be minimal maintenance.

Also what is the rule about spelling dollar amounts in a formal document? For instance, is the following correct?

Public art in a form to be approved by the Legal Department with David Parker, in the amount of Eighty Four Thousand Dollars (\$84,000.00).

Does the dollar amount have to spelled out every time the amount is referred to in the document for consistency?

• Because parts of your sentences are difficult to comprehend, we will address only your direct questions regarding inches, feet, and writing dollar amounts. We recommend staying consistent in your sentences. If you choose to write “inches” in your first sentence, write “feet” in your second sentence. The compound adjectives three-inch and one-quarter-inch require hyphens.

The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 9.25 says, “Sums of money of more than one hundred dollars are normally expressed by numerals.” Therefore, we feel that expressing the amount of money as “\$84,000” is adequate unless your legal department requires that it also be spelled out. In that case, the spelled-out portion should be written as “eighty-four thousand dollars.”

12. Claire says:

Is it ever possible to use the following decimal point:
“The cost of the class is \$79. for the entire semester.”

• It is possible to use the decimal point if it is followed by two zeros (\$79.00); however, both the decimal point and the zeros are generally unnecessary.

13. Mary says:

What is the proper way to annotate foreign currency such as the GBP? for example fifteen hundred dollars is \$1500.00 or \$1,500.00 but are commas and decimal used for pounds? ie: fifteen hundred pounds = £1500.00 or £1,500.00

thanks

• In the English-speaking world, it is common to use commas every three decimal places in numbers of four or more digits, counting right to left. Decimals are not necessary unless there is a fraction.

14. Lori says:

If I’m writing a price range, do I use the dollar sign on the second number?

\$1,000-3,000 or \$1,000-\$3,000

Thank you!

• The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 3.81 recommends repeating the dollar sign when writing number ranges that include dollar amounts.

15. Tiffany says:

Is the following grammatically correct?

“Only one third is able to read these letters”

Should one-third be hyphenated? Is one third a singular noun in which case it would be one third are?

• Whether a singular or plural verb is used depends on one question: one-third of what? One-third of the population is able. One-third of the people are able.

16. Oscar says:

Hi I have a question. Do I use another dollar sign between hyphens? Like this “\$50-\$100” or just “\$50-100”? I would really like claification as in whether or not I use another dollar sign when there’s a hyphen.

• As we responded to Lori on July 2, 2015, The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 3.81 recommends repeating the dollar sign when writing number ranges that include dollar amounts.

17. Kathy says:

Our copy editors are in disagreement about how to render hyphens in spelled our fractions in the context of a elementary-school math book in which we are instructing children how to write out numbers (it’s a Common Core skill–no getting around it). If we follow Chicago, as we usually do, and use a hyphen between the numerator and denominator, what do we do with complex fractions such as 37/300? And how would we differentiate between 2/100,000 and 200/1000?
Thanks!

• Your example shows why we do not recommend spelling out complex fractions. The following are our best guesses:
thirty-seven three hundredths (37/300)
two hundred-thousandths or two one hundred-thousandths or one fifty-thousandth (2/100,000)
two hundred thousandths or two hundred one-thousandths or one-fifth (200/1000)

18. sofia skaf says:

So what would 16 and 2/4

• A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures (16½) unless it is the first word of a sentence. We cannot make any other recommendations without seeing the fraction used in a complete sentence.

19. K Peterson says:

What is the correct way to state that something costs .00006 of a cent? Is there a dollar sign?

• While we don’t know what might carry such a cost, writing an obscure number such as this as a monetary amount with a dollar sign could be even further confusing for the reader. We recommend sticking with “0.00006 of a cent.”

20. Vasilina P. says:

There is a document where it is needed to state a sum of money both in figures and in letters. The sum is 0.0016 dollars. How I supposed to spell it? sixteen tenthousandth dollar / sixteen tenthousandth of a dollar?

21. Amanda Lee says:

What is the rule for a compound adjective that contains a dollar symbol? Is it a \$20 million home, or \$20-million home? Thanks!

• We recommend writing any of the following:
\$20 million home
twenty-million-dollar home
20-million-dollar home
\$20,000,000 home

22. Juliet says:

I think it is OK to write \$3:00 for money but apparently it has to be a period, and the semi colon is only used for time. Is this correct?

23. Joe says:

Thanks for a very informative page and good questions and answers.

Assuming you want to use the dollar sign symbol (\$) and you have a negative currency number, which is most common / most preferred:
\$-1,234.56
or
-\$1,234.56

24. I am proof reading a grant with various amounts of proposed expenses. One set of figures lists boxes for \$174 to \$225, later on flowers are referenced from \$4.00 to \$5.00. Is there a preference for adding the .00 or is up to the writer to be consistent with the use of .00. Or, if there are no cents in any of the figures in the grant, should the .00 be dropped on all figures?

• The Chicago Manual of Style says, “Whole amounts expressed numerically should include zeros and a decimal point only when they appear in the same context with fractional amounts.”
Example: Prices ranged from \$0.95 up to \$10.00.
If there are no cents in any of the figures in the grant, we recommend using no zeros or decimal points.

25. Herman says:

Foot or feet: Questions about length measurements of less than one foot, example: “0.23 foot”. Or is it: “0.23 feet”? If you say it, “Zero point twenty-three feet” sounds better than the same, ending in foot. But then, how about “0.01” – foot or feet? And if it is between one and two feet, is it 1.23 feet or 1.23 foot? More than two feet, I guess it’s always “feet”: 2.23 feet.

• It doesn’t matter whether the length is more or less than one foot. It depends on how the length is used in the sentence. You would say “the wood is X feet in length.” However, if the decimal is being used as part of a compound adjective, you would say an “X-foot piece of wood.”

26. Emily says:

When you refer to “1/8” should it be “an 1/8”, “a 1/8”, or should there be no indefinite article? Or because it is a simple fraction should it be spelled out?

• It depends on the context. Simple fractions should be spelled out and hyphenated. An article is not always necessary.
Examples:
One-eighth cup of water was added to the recipe.
A one-eighth-inch slit was cut in the fabric.
The cut in the fabric measured an eighth of an inch.

27. Roshawn Dobbins says:

Hello, my co-worker said the following phrase is incorrect. All my life I always saw the “\$” symbol before numbers and now someone is telling me it is incorrect. See phrase below:
“For just \$20 bucks you can purchase brand new gym clothes and your gym lock.” Should I remove the dollar symbol?

• The dollar sign (\$) indicates “dollars.” The dollar sign and the word bucks should not be used together.
“For just \$20 you can purchase brand new gym clothes and your gym lock.” OR
“For just 20 dollars you can purchase brand new gym clothes and your gym lock.” OR
“For just 20 bucks you can purchase brand new gym clothes and your gym lock.”

28. Echo says:

How do you express mixed money? Which of the following is correct?
\$10 and 25 cents
\$10.25
10 dollars and 25 cents

• As long as they do not appear at the beginning of a sentence, the following are correct:
\$10.25 OR ten dollars and twenty-five cents