Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I find myself in the awkward position of needing to systematically spell out fractions where the numerator, the denominator, or both have three or more digits, and I'm not sure about the hyphenation. For example, 124/145:

  • one-hundred-twenty-four one-hundred-forty-fifths?
  • one hundred twenty-four one hundred forty-fifths?
  • something else?
share|improve this question
Can you get away with rewriting to avoid spelling out the fractions (for example, by moving them from the beginning of a sentence to the middle)? –  phenry Jun 28 '11 at 23:28
@phenry: Unfortunately, no. The technology at issue doesn't (yet) cope with numerical fractions. –  Isaac Jun 28 '11 at 23:29
As far as I remember, hyphens are used to spell out numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine. –  kiamlaluno Jun 28 '11 at 23:33
@kiamlaluno: I think my reference (Chicago Manual of Style) says twenty-one through ninety-nine, but it stops at ninety-nine in large part because it says not to spell out numbers above ninety-nine. I'm more concerned, though, about the readability without the hyphens than about following a specific rule. –  Isaac Jun 28 '11 at 23:36
@Isaac: what technology can't handle something like "124/125"? Isn't spelling that out rather inane? –  bcc32 Jun 28 '11 at 23:56
show 2 more comments

3 Answers

Can you use numbers at all? Could you write 124-145ths? Otherwise, I hate to say it, but stylistically, you should have a hyphen between the numerator and the denominator (rule 3 in the link). Also, it looks like you should use hyphens only with twenty-one to ninety-nine (Rule 7). So

One hundred twenty-four-one hundred forty-fifths

would presumably be the appropriate style, according to the Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation anyway.

Because you are using large numbers, maybe you could get away with an en dash instead of a hyphen, for clarity:

One hundred twenty-four–one hundred forty-fifths

share|improve this answer
add comment

The first thing I would look for is a style guide relevant to your awkward position that needs these to be written out. If something or someone is asking you to do this, go to them for the correct behavior.

Aside from that (or convincing them this is a bad idea), I would use a word to split the denominator and numerator (depending on context):

one hundred twenty-four over one hundred forty-five

one hundred twenty-four divided by one hundred forty-five

The other complication in this is how to write compound fractions such as 1 3/4. I use and to split them:

one and three-fourths

six hundred and one hundred twenty-four over one hundred forty-five

This is still annoying and slightly ambiguous, but that is what you get when writing out numbers like these.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think there is only one way of hyphenating this and making it moderately clear: put hyphens between all words in both the numerator and denominator, and a space between them:

one-hundred-twenty-four one-hundred-forty-fifths.

I know this isn't what the style guides say, but the style guides also tell you not to write out numbers this complicated; they weren't designed for this situation.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.