Money, Money, Money

by Cherie Tucker

When you are writing about amounts of money, should you use figures or spell them out?  I’m pretty sure you already know that when you are adding a column of figures that contain a combination of even dollars and amounts with change, you add two zeros to the even amounts.
$120.47           but       $      .47           (You don’t need zeros before the decimal.)
              150.00                         150.00 
                53.29                           53.29           
            $323.76                       $203.76
If you are using the numbers in writing rather than totaling and all have even amounts, you don’t need the zeros.  You just write the amount:  
I left $500 on the table for you. (Not $500.00)

For large amounts of money, you may write $15 million, or 15 million dollars.  (The first one is preferable.)  When dealing with several millions or other huge amounts, for the sake of clarity, write the word million (or zillion) after each entry. 
He lost anywhere from $15 million to $20 million.  (Not $15 to $20 million.)
If the amount is a fraction of one of those large amounts, either spell out the amount or use all figures. Don’t be tempted to use actual fractions (3/4 million dollars).
            He won three-quarters of a million dollars! 
            OR: He won $750,000!
You may use real fractions if there is a fractional amount more than a million dollars:
He’s worth $5½ million, but you can’t tell by looking at him.
With small change, use numerals and the word centsI got this for only 35 cents.
The only time you would use the dollar sign and a decimal for writing cents is when parallel construction is required in a sentence with amounts above and below a dollar.
I paid $3.57 for this one, $5.50 for that one, and only $.50 for this beauty.
You’ll need this information when you write home about winning the Lottery, so keep it close by.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well. 

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