How to Write Out Numbers Using Words

Paying the Bills
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Writing out numbers can be intimidating. Fortunately, in most situations, you just need to make things clear enough to avoid major confusion and disputes. For example, when writing a check, banks will only reference the words to verify the numerals written elsewhere on the check.

When to Write Out Numbers

Writing a check is the most common situation in which you'll need to write out an amount using words (in addition to the numerals in the dollar box). Doing so helps to prevent confusion and fraud—numbers can easily be altered or misread, but an amount written in words is much harder to tamper with. In most cases, it doesn’t matter how you write it. Nobody will notice unless there’s a problem with the check.

Many writing styles also require numbers to be written out with words if they appear at the beginning of a sentence. For example, the number "23" appears in the middle of this sentence, so it can be written with numbers. "Twenty-three" appears at the beginning of this sentence, so it needs to be written with words.

Tips and Grammar Rules

Try using these tips and rules to further grasp the concept of writing out numbers with words.

Say the Number Out Loud

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.

Use Hyphens

Note the hyphen (otherwise known as a "minus sign") in "thirty-four" above. Technically, numbers between 21 and 99 should be hyphenated if it ends in a number other than "0." However, merchants don’t care about formatting rules when you’re writing a check. They just don’t want the check to bounce. If you forget to add a hyphen or add one where you shouldn't, they aren't likely to notice or care.

Use Numbers for Cents

If you're writing a check, you only need to 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

"And" Replaces the Decimal Point

Do not use the word "and" after "hundred" or "thousand" if full dollar amounts follow it. The word “and” is only used before the number of cents (in place of the decimal point). In other words, you can use it after the hundreds or thousands, but only if the number of cents follows immediately after. Informally, you may hear people say “two hundred and five dollars,” but that isn't the correct way to write the number. You may also hear people informally say "point" in place of the decimal point ("twenty-three point seventy-five"), but that's also technically incorrect.

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)

Keep Your Word Choice Formal

Avoid any informal terms when writing out numbers. Again, most people don’t care what you write as long as it makes sense, but clarity is helpful. 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 to Numerals

When using numerals to convey a number with four or more digits (in the thousands or more), use a comma to help the eye quickly process the number. A comma should be placed every three characters left from the decimal. When there is no decimal because you're dealing with a whole number, you can mentally add a decimal to the right side of the figure. However, don’t use any commas when you write out the number using words.

Examples:

  • 1,234
  • 1,234,000
  • 1,234.59
  • One thousand two hundred thirty-four and 59/100

Comma Use Varies by Nation

The rules for numerical commas may change if you travel outside the U.S. In some other nations, the comma and decimal point essentially switch roles. For example, a number that appears as "1,234.59" in the U.S. might be written as “1.234,59” in other parts of the world. If you're traveling abroad and need to understand what the number means, look for blocks of three numbers (indicating thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, and so on).

Words Make It Official

The amount you write with words is the official amount of your check. If the amount in numeric format differs from what you write in word format, U.S. authorities require the bank to go with the amount written out in words.

In many cases, the people receiving checks only look at the numerical figure. Checks with discrepancies could easily go unnoticed, especially when deposited at ATMs. Still, somebody will notice a problem with your check if you have insufficient funds or later dispute the payment. To avoid the hassle, double-check the two figures to make sure they are identical.

More Practice With Large Numbers

As numbers grow, they get harder to say and write—until you get used to them. If you're struggling to understand the concept of writing numbers with words, start small. Practice with two-digit and three-digit numbers, then work your way up to millions and billions. Count how many numerals there are to the left of the decimal point to figure out what kind of number you’re dealing with. Remember, when there is no decimal, you can mentally add a decimal to the right side of the figure.

Note how the place in this table (tens, hundreds, thousands) is plural, but the number is not plural when it is written out. For example, "1,500" is a number that's in the thousands, but it would be written out as "one thousand five hundred."

Numerical Place Written With Words
1,234.00 Thousands One thousand two hundred thirty-four
12,340.00 Tens of thousands Twelve thousand three hundred forty
123,400.00 Hundreds of thousands One hundred twenty-three thousand four hundred
1,234,000.00 Millions One million two hundred thirty-four thousand
12,340,000.00 Tens of millions Twelve million three hundred forty thousand

The Bottom Line

When it's so common to use numbers to convey figures, it can be frustrating to convert those figures to word format. The easiest way to tackle it is to work slowly and deliberately through the number. Start with the largest amounts on the left and work your way toward the decimal point on the right. Say the figure out loud and write it as you say it—just remember to only use "and" in place of a decimal point.

Don't let the little grammar rules stress you out. As long as you follow the basic steps and keep the numbers in the correct order, people will understand what you're writing.

Article Sources

  1. National Credit Union Administration. "Understanding a Check and Balancing a Checkbook." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  2. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "Associated Press Style: Quick Reference Guide," Page 3. Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  3. National Wildfire Coordinating Group. "1.1 How to Read Large Numbers." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  4. USA.gov. "Writing Principles: Numerical Information." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.

  5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "I Received a Check Where the Words and the Numbers for the Amount Are Different." Accessed Feb. 6, 2020.