How to Write Out Numbers Using Words

Paying the Bills
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Writing out numbers can be intimidating. 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 helping to verify the numerals written elsewhere on the check.

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). Doing so helps to prevent confusion and fraud—numerals 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.

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.

Technical Tips

Here is the style to follow when writing numbers on checks:

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 formatting rules when you’re writing a check (whether you skip the hyphen or hyphenate incorrectly); they just don’t want the check to bounce.

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

“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)—so 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 that’s 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, 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: 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 (although there is no decimal with whole numbers). For extremely large numbers, add another comma every three characters or digits. Don’t use the comma when you write out the number using words.

Examples:

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

These rules are the standard for most English-speaking countries. However, in other nations, the comma and decimal may appear 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).

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 write in word format, the bank is supposed to go with the amount written out in words—which 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 (for example, if you have insufficient funds or somebody disputes the payment).

More Practice With Large Numbers

As numbers grow, they get harder to say and write—until you get used to them. While people may be comfortable with tens and hundreds, 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. When there is no decimal, 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.

Note how the place in this table (tens, hundreds, or thousands, for example) is not plural: You say “twelve thousand” instead of “twelve thousands.”

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