## NUMB3RS Rerun

One thing on my list of New Year’s resolutions: saying numbers correctly. Well, not really, but it might be if I were an even bigger nerd than I already am.

The fact is that many people either don’t know how to say numbers correctly or at least don’t say them properly. The numbers I’m referring to here are those pesky ones with decimals and commas – you know, the really big ones, and the really small ones, too.

So where do you say “and,” and where don’t you?

The rule of thumb is that you only need an “and” where there appears a decimal. All other positions should be devoid of “and.” For instance, if you were to speak aloud the number 1,234, it would go something like this: “one thousand three hundred thirty-four.” To say “one thousand three hundred *and* thirty-four would technically be incorrect, although I doubt you’ll be shot over it (otherwise you already would have been). On the other hand, if you were to speak aloud the number 123.4, it would go something like this: “one hundred twenty-three *and* four-tenths.” I don’t suspect that most of the three of you who are reading this would say “one hundred twenty-three-four-tenths,” but if you do happen to say it like that, stop.

(I should mention here that this applies at least to American English, while in other places the grammar may be different. How does it work over there, Lenina? Bronwyn?)

As far as writing numbers is concerned, well, I’ve already covered some of it. But, as it happens, there is more. There is always more. When writing out numbers using words (as opposed to…numbers), those that require two words but are less than one hundred should be hyphenated. For example, *forty-five* should always be hyphenated; *four hundred* never should be. This goes for decimals too, as they all will use two words.

Hm…I don’t know much about spelling out numbers. I think I was taught to always use [I’m fine with split infinitives] the ‘and’ after the hundreds. Example: 134 = One hundred AND thirty-four; 1234 = One thousand two hundred AND thirty-four. I don’t know whether this difference is down to BE/AE though. Regarding the decimal, I’d say: 123.4 = One hundred and twenty-three POINT four.

Also seen in ‘web two point oh’ = web 2.0. You wouldn’t say ‘web two and oh’, would you? Or do you say ‘web 2 and/point zero’?

lenina2006 Dec 22 at 12:35

Nope, I definitely go with “Web two-point-oh” too. But, in the instances when one specifies how many tenths there are, for example, you definitely need the “and,” no? If I were weird like that, I’d say “Web two and zero-tenths,” for example.

nosugrefneb2006 Dec 22 at 14:19

Here in NZ, it is very similar to what lenina said. I don’t know anyone who would use “one hundred twenty-three and four-tenths”. Also, we would (almost) always use the ‘and’ in “One thousand two hundred AND thirty-four”

I think that’s just a difference with NZ vs American English though…

Jenn2007 Mar 29 at 22:01

I was also taught to use the form “One thousand two hundred and thirty four”, from a BE point of view (having been educated in England). And this carries on to larger numbers as well, for example: 1,234,567 – to me would be “One million two hundred AND thirty four thousand five hundred AND sixty seven.”

On numbers with decimals, I was also taught (BE again) that one used the term ‘point’, and of course state each number individually opposed to their conjoined form, example: 0.44 would be “nought point four four” opposed to “nought point fourty-four”, and only when numbers are expressed in fractions should they be described as such, 44/100 for example would be “fourty four hundredths”, and 0.44 never should be described this way.

This is also a practical mathematical point. Fractions are precise numbers, defining a specific value, whereas decimals are not. A decimal point always carries with it a margin of error:

0.4 for example, represents all numbers between 0.35 and 0.44999 (recurring), since all numbers between 0.35 and 0.449 would be written as 0.4 if expressed to one decimal place.

Fractions on the other hand have no such margin of error, 4/10 is precisely four tenths, to any degree of accuracy. My old maths teacher had a particular affinity for fractions and their accuracy and would request all answers, if possible, to be expressed in fractional form due to this level of precision (we all have our quirks). And of course it is not always possible to represent a decimal number as a fraction, these themselves are called irrational numbers, such as pi or the square root of two.

Wrapping up the digression, I believe decimals and fractions should never be confused in writing or speech, as they do not convey the same meaning mathematically.

James2007 Jul 21 at 00:42

I think the term “Web 2.0” should be distinguished from a discussion of “tenths” or “hundredths” because “Web 2.0” refers to a version number, which is not the same as a decimal number. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to use a versioning convention such as 7.1.3, whereas this is not a valid decimal number. Also, it’s common to hear “dot” instead of “point” in this context. So version 7.1.3 would be “seven dot one dot three”.

Steve2007 Sep 27 at 19:24

1,234 = “one thousand two hundred and thirty four”

123.4 = “one hundred and twenty three decimal four”

OR “one hundred and twenty three point four”

Julkes2008 May 4 at 06:30

You wrote 1,234, not 1,334. How did you miss that in your post?

Jon2011 Jun 27 at 01:02