Submitted by marsha on July 19, 2006

Writing out percentages correctly

I work in the legal field and it is necessary to write out percentages. I need help. Is this the correct way? For 4.975% - would it be written “Four and Nine Hundred Seventy-Five Thousands percent”.

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Everyone, read Marsha's request a little more carefully:
"I work in the legal field and it is necessary to write out percentages."
It really doesn't matter what any style manual says. I'm no expert, but I do believe that, by law, percentages have to be spelled out in words when mentioned in contracts, etc.

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You're close, Marsha.

4.975% would be "Four and nine-hundred seventy five thousandths percent" (fractional thousands).

Although why a legal office would have a need for significant figures to three decimal places is beyond my comprehension.

As to writing out numbers, I follow Associated Press style, which is to write out one through ten or any number that begins a sentence or quote, and use numerals for all numbers 11 and above. Decimal numbers are always written as numerals, in this style. But I suppose every industry can have its own standard.

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I would write: "four point nine seven five percent".

What does the firm you work for recommend as the accepted style?

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Regarding "... of a percent"; I've heard this before and even said it, but now that I think about it, I don't think it's really correct grammatically. Percent literally means "per hundred". "Per" is already a preposition. Use of "of" would be a double preposition. It would be like saying "I was driving sixty five miles of a per hour."

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I would agree with Auto, except that I would finish with "of a percent", ie "Four and nine-hundred seventy five thousandths of a percent".

I also agree with porsche. Anyone suggesting otherwise is missing the point.

Auto, if your commission on a $64 billion merger is Four and nine-hundred seventy five thousandths of a percent, just send me the five thousandths of a percent, if you consider it insignificant. ;-)

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In my view it is entirely proper to write the digital/symbol form. I always write numbers up to ninety-nine in words, greater numbers in digits, and percentages as described.

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how about .75%? how would I write that? seventy five hundredths of a percent?

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Auto - Marsha has asked how to write out a percentage, because she has been told to at work. It seems to me that she really does want to find an answer, not just discuss the point, so to say she shouldn't do it at all is not really helping.

Also, in legal areas it is essential to be exactly accurate to what has been said, promised, etc. If the figure 4.975% is relevant, it needs to be recorded in its original form, not rounded and, apparently, in words (to ensure clarity when read out?).

Marsha - no doubt the job you needed this advice for has been done by now, but here is my best guess at the right way to write a percentage out:

I remember a physics teacher telling me that, as a nice and clear way to tell when you were talking about numbers before or after a decimal point, after the point you should dispense with units, tens, hundreds, etc. and just list off the numbers. So, as Chris suggested, 4.975% becomes "four point nine seven five percent".

Percentage came to us as part of the metric numeric system, along with metres, litres and kilos, all of which use decimals not fractions. Therefore it seems inappropriate to me to use the imperial convention of fractions when reading a percentage.

At the end of the day though, consistency is the most important rule. However you write out percentages, if you and your collegues do it the same for long enough, THAT will be the correct way.

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We do this frequently for our state legislature. Bills typically require all numbers to be written out. Our local gross receipts tax, for example, has 4 decimal places.

Four and Nine Hundred and Seventy-Five Thousandths percent

To use "of a percent" (not recommended):
Four percent and Nine Hundred and Seventy-Five Thousands of a percent

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I need to know to write out 5.65%. Thank you.

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how do I spell out 6.85%

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You write it as "2.04%". You pronounce it as "two point oh four percent".

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If the Recovery (read it Money) is in the millions [of dollars], even 4 decimal places would make a SIGNIFICANT figures.

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While I don't doubt that a thousandth of a couple million dollars would be significant, I do doubt that such figures can be reliable (i.e. significant figures in the scientific sense).

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Definitely write 4.975%; if it is more than ninety-nine, you use numbers. Maybe spell out percent.

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Hi All, I looked this up because I too am in the legal field and was trying to determint how to write out an APR of .2%...legalease as you have called it, does indeed REQUIRE that numbers in any form be typed or written out in addition to showing the numerical value.

So, is it Point two percent, or is it Two-tenths Percent?

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I'm not saying that five thousandths of a percent of $64 billion is not significant. It's certainly a lot of money.

But in working with figures, rounding, inaccuracy, and terms of mathematical calculation bring insignificance into the figures used.

For example:

When multiplying 4.5 times 3.25, your result is 14.625, but because the you only know to an exact amount the tenths figure (4.5) in the first item, that result must be rounded to the tenths place ... making it 14.6. If, however, you knew the first figure to be not 4.5 but 4.52, the result is 14.69, a figure that does not need to be rounded. Even if you knew the hundreths place to be zero, 4.50 times 3.25 is still 14.625, and know you know significance to the hundreths place -- 14.62.

Since its unlikely that in the original accounting or contracts, figures were recorded to the fourth place after the decimal point (when is the last time you took out a bank loan with an APR of 5.2546? I bet it was an APR of 5.25), any results from multiplication or division of the figures would only be mathematically significant to the second place after the decimal point. That they are financially significant is a non-issue.

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Since I'm not an English native speaker, I need someone who will explain to me how the following percentage is written in words: 23.5.

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If it's for legal reasons and you must write the number out, I'm with Chris.

Four point nine seven five percent.

The point of a decimal is to do away with messy fractions. Otherwise you might as well just say "four and thirty-nine out of forty percent."

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i don't know if i would rely on the numeric value of the number to determine whether you should spell it out or use numerals. the best way to go is, if you need to use more than two words to describe the number, it's best to use the numerals. "2.8" become "two point eight" so you would use numbers "1,000,000" would become "one million" so it's best to write it out.

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Always done it: 39 percent, no matter what the numerical value, in some instances a paper may call for it to be thirty-nine (39%) percent also but that's really old old old legal-ese stuff

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The reason it needs to be spelled out is for clarification. Sometimes, depending on the font used, time passing and eroding the paper, scanning, etc, the numbers become difficult to read. a 8 can look like a 3 a 7 like a 1, etc. This is why it is required that on Legal Documents which includes numbers also be spelled out. I came upon this site because I too work in the legal field and need help with how to spell out 2.04 percent. I think it is two and four one-hundredths percent, but wanted to be sure. Any body out there have an answer?

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I'm no mathematician, but I don't understand how you can have 3 figures as a percentage of 100...percent is latin for 100 and what follows the point wd have to be a fraction or smaller number than 100 or it wd make no sense.
From my newspaper experience it would have been written out in numbers (once more than a total single number is involved).

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I agree with some of you: let's leave the discussion of significant figures alone; I don't have my physics textbook handy and I don't doubt the necessity of including so many decimals. (For one thing, I worked at a bank for three years, and we certainly did use several decimal places in certain circumstances: just think of currency exchange rates taken out to six figures on a regular basis.)

Also, in legal writing precision is often more highly valued than succinctness, for many logical reasons. If a check were taken to court, it would be the value written out in words, not in numerals, that would count. Writing an essay is different from writing a legal document.

Let's say "four and nine(-)hundred(-)seventy-five (one-)thousandths percent." I might have to look up those parenthetical hyphens to be sure.

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Also it's interesting that in English, cent can mean either one hundred (from the latin centum) or one hundredth (from the latin centesimus)

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Yes, how would you write .75%? Does anyone know?

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Excuse the brain freeze above. i didn't get much sleep last night. Clearly, "of a percent" would be used for something with a fraction of one percent, e.g. "a half of a percent" (or "a half of one percent") and would be correct. I think some style manuals say that "...of a..." should only be used with fractions and not with decimals: "three quarters of a percent" is ok and "point seven five percent", but not "point seven five of a percent". I don't think the "of a" would be required, per se, at least not when the percentage is greater than one, and also not used if the numbers (and/or the word "percent") are not spelled out at words.

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"Percent," as Porsche pointed out, means "per hundred" and so it has this inbuilt preposition. The "percent" is also usually treated like a unit of measurement (like kg, m, lb, etc). Therefore, I'd say that "Four and Nine Hundred Seventy-Five Thousandths percent" makes sense. You could perhaps alternatively say "Four and Nine Hundred Seventy-Five Thousandths of a percentage point" but that makes the already stilted lawyerese even worse in my opinion!

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Looks like the ABA has to be the final entity to give Marsha (and others) the answer. They must come up with the standard. I do know that it is not a matter of [English] grammar nor scientific, mathematic included. When it comes to law (in any country), it has its own "language". Haven't you all heard: "don't talk law jargon to me, speak English!"
See Marsha what you have started? It IS one of the interesting topics I've seen [here].

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I'll bet if you call up the mortgage department of your bank, someone there will know the answer off the top of their head.

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How do I write in words .069445%

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For those of you who insist it should be "four and nine hundred seventy five thousandths percent" or something similar. Here's something to consider. Let's say we ask a few simpler questions in reverse:

How would you write "four point five percent" using only arabic numerals and symbols?

Answer: 4.5%

How would you write "four and a half percent" using only arabic numerals and symbols?

Answer: 4-1/2%

Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

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Oh, and to make the analogy complete, how would you write "four and five tenths percent" using only arabic numerals and symbols?

Answer: 4-5/10%

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I was taught in my college comp class to always write out percentages in numerical form.

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