Write Out Numbers Using Words

Paying the Bills
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Writing out numbers can seem complicated. Fortunately, in most everyday situations, you just need to make things clear enough to avoid confusion and disputes. For example, when writing a check, you’re just restating the numerals written elsewhere on the check. But if you’re writing something more formal, there are numerous rules to follow, and different publications use different rules.

This page will help you with basic tasks like writing numbers on checks and similar documents, and we’ll get into some of the rules that can add clarity to your writing in other areas.

Writing a Check

When writing a check, you need to write out the amount using words (in addition to the numerals in the dollar box). This helps to prevent confusion and fraud — numerals can easily be altered or misunderstood, but an amount in words is much harder to tamper with. In most cases, it doesn’t matter what you write or how you write it: Nobody will notice unless there’s a problem with the check.

Just Like it Sounds

If you can say it, you can write it. A rule of thumb is to write the numbers just as they sound. If your number is 1,234, say it out loud. It will be written just as it sounds: one thousand two hundred thirty-four.

Technical Tips

Hyphen: Note the hyphen (or the minus sign) in "thirty-four" above. Technically, it’s correct to hyphenate numbers between 21 and 99. However, merchants don’t care about these types of things when you’re writing a check — if you skip the hyphen or hyphenate incorrectly — they just don’t want the check to bounce.

Examples:

  • Twenty-one
  • Ninety-nine

Full dollars in words: Only write the full dollar amount in words. For portions less than one dollar, use a fraction. 

Examples:

  • One thousand two hundred thirty-four dollars and 56/100
  • One thousand two hundred thirty-four dollars + 56/100

For more details and examples, see how to write dollars and cents on a check.

“And” placement: Do not use the word "and" after "hundred" or "thousand." “And” is only used before the number of cents (in place of the decimal point) — which means you can use it after the hundreds or thousands if the number of cents follows immediately after. Informally, you may hear people say “two hundred and five dollars,” but this is not the correct way to write the number.

Examples:

  • Two hundred five dollars
  • Two hundred dollars and fifty cents
  • Two hundred and 50/100 (written on a check, with the word “Dollars” preprinted at the end of the line)

Formal and informal: Avoid informal terms when writing out numbers. Again, clarity is the most important thing, but it’s always best to keep your payments moving smoothly so that you and your check’s recipient don’t have to deal with questions from a bank.

Examples:

  • Write "one thousand two hundred" instead of "twelve hundred."
  • Write “five thousand” instead of “five K.”

Commas add clarity: When using numerals and a number has four or more digits (in the thousands or more), use a comma to help the eye quickly process the number. The comma goes three characters over from the decimal (there is no decimal with whole numbers). For extremely large numbers, add another comma every three characters.

The comma is not used when you write out the number using words.

Examples:

  • 1,234
  • 1,234,000
  • 1,234.59
  • One thousand two hundred thirty-four

This is the standard for most English speaking countries. However, in other nations, you’ll find the comma and decimal appearing in the opposite location. For example, a number might be written as “1.234,59” in some areas. To understand what the number means, look for blocks of three numbers (indicating thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, and so on).

For more examples of large numbers, see the table at the bottom of this page.

Words Make it Official

The amount you write using words is the official amount of your check. If the amount in numeric format differs from what you wrote in word format, the bank is supposed to go with the amount written out in words — this is the legal amount of your payment.

In most cases, nobody even reads the amount that you write with words. Checks with discrepancies often go unnoticed, especially when deposited at ATMs, but somebody will notice if there’s a problem with your check.

Write Fewer Checks

Sometimes checks are the only way to pay. But vendors — and even friends and family — can increasingly accept electronic payments. These forms of payment make it easier for you to track your spending and keep a record of every transaction. What’s more, they’re fast, they’re often free, and you don’t need to replenish your stock of checks as often.

In-person payments: The easiest way to pay at most merchants is with plastic. A credit card is generally safer for protecting your bank account, but you can also use a debit card (if you have a checking account, you probably already have a debit card). When you write a check at the checkout counter, those payments are often converted into electronic payments anyway — so you’re not buying time by using a check.

Online bill payments: Most banks offer free online bill payment with your checking account. This allows you to pay recurring bills easily — sometimes without even lifting a finger. Instead of writing a check, paying postage, and getting the payment into the mail on time, you can handle everything online.

Online purchases: Just like at a brick-and-mortar merchant, a payment card is a great option for online purchases. You can also use payment networks like PayPal to put a layer between your checking account and an unknown merchant.

Friends and family: There are several ways to send funds to friends and family electronically, and many of them are free (or at least not much more than postage).

  • PayPal is an established service, personal payments are free, and almost everybody has a PayPal account.
  • Venmo is also popular and free, but avoid sending money to anybody you don’t know or trust/
  • Square Cash is fast and free and uses debit cards to transfer money.
  • Your bank probably offers an online P2P payment service, but your recipient may need to sign up for an account.

For more ideas and details, see Ways to  Send Money Online.

More Examples: Large Numbers

As numbers grow, they get harder to say and write — until you get used to them. Most people are comfortable with tens and hundreds, but things get complicated after that. Count how many numerals there are to the left of the decimal point to figure out what kind of number you’re dealing with. Sometimes there is no decimal. In that case, start at the far right of any whole number.

  • If there are four numbers to the left of the decimal, you’re in the thousands
  • With five numbers, you’re in the tens of thousands

The table below shows more examples. Note how the place (tens, hundreds, or thousands, for example) is not plural: You say “twelve thousand” instead of “twelve thousands.”

              1,234.00ThousandsOne thousand two hundred thirty-four
           12,340.00Tens of thousandsTwelve thousand three hundred forty
         123,400.00Hundreds of thousandsOne hundred twenty-three thousand four hundred
     1,234,000.00MillionsOne million two hundred thirty-four thousand
   12,340,000.00Tens of millionsTwelve million three hundred forty thousand