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.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am currently writing an essay, I have to state there is a $1 million prize for something. What is the correct way of stating this amount?

I have gone with "one million USD", do you think this is acceptable or is there a preferred format?

share|improve this question
I would not use “USD” in general writing. Just say a million dollars U.S., or a million (American) dollars. If you must. Normally “dollar” means American funds unless otherwise qualified by locale. – tchrist Nov 30 '12 at 15:26
I always use US$599, NT$18,000 (New Taiwan dollars), AU$600, CA$700. But (USD), (CAD), etc. is a perfectly normal option. – user21497 Nov 30 '12 at 16:04
@tchrist Canadian, Belize, and Jamaican dollar are also American – snoram Feb 22 at 8:51
@snoram No, they aren't, at least not in any useful sense for English speakers. – choster Feb 22 at 15:06
Yes, they are. Even though many people use it today does not make it correct. Think if it like the word "nigger". – snoram Feb 22 at 20:01

If you and your essay readers are in the U.S., then they will correctly infer one million U.S. dollars from $1 million.

Currency abbreviations (such as USD, CHF, CAD, JPY, and EUR) are used by currency traders to denote currency pairs.

I would avoid USD unless your essay readers might confuse the prize for Canadian or Australian dollars. In those cases, you might write it as

a $1 million (CAD) prize

the fabulous $1 million (AUD) prize

share|improve this answer

I would only use an abbreviation like "USD" in a context where other such abbreviations are used or at least would seem appropriate. If you're writing general text, with all the other words spelled out normally, it would be odd to suddenly use an abbreviation here.

Also, I think most general readers would not realize what "USD" stands for without some context. I mean, if you just said, "the prize is one million USD", unless you have been talking about multiple foreign currencies in this context before this, I don't think most readers would instantly realize what that stands for.

If you were writing to an American audience, who would normally expect all dollar amounts to be American dollars unless otherwise specified, you should simply say "$1 million". I'm not sure what conventions are in other countries, but as an American, if I was writing for an American audience and the prize was in, say, Australian dollars, I would write "$1 million (Australian)" or "one million Australian dollars".

I'd avoid "$1 million (USD)" or "one million dollars (USD)" because it's redundant: that spells out to "one million dollars (United States dollars)", and grates like "ATM machine", etc.

If you are writing an article for bankers or international financiers, that's different, then it's conventional to write "US$1 million", etc. and they know what you mean.

share|improve this answer
In Britain, once the country of the currency is established then customary symbols would be $1m, A$1m, C$1m, Z$1m. Not sure that one million Zimbabwean dollars is much of a prize compared to the others, though. – Andrew Leach Nov 30 '12 at 16:09

I like rajah9's answer but I would restate the variations for a little better readability:

a prize of $1 million (CAD)

the fabulous prize of $1 million (AUD)


1st Prize - $1 million (CAD)

share|improve this answer

To be honest I believe we should be moving to international accepted norms for currency reporting, namely ISO 4217. In this case, one would use USD. In Europe they have clearly defined standards for reporting currency in documents. In this case they use the ISO 4217 code of EUR, see (http://publications.europa.eu/code/en/en-370303.htm).

The Economist Magazine is a common example of bad reporting in both currency abbreviations(often ambiguous) and use of SI units (i.e m (metre) for million rather than M for million).

share|improve this answer
That link is a good reference. Can you clarify something from there for me, though? In the first blue box, it says (not EUR 1 million) - i.e. don't spell out the word, use the digits form (for the journal). Later, in the second bullet point under "with million or billion", it allows EUR 10 million. Is the latter only for non-journal expressions, or is there a contradiction here? – Lawrence Feb 22 at 10:43

The best way to express “one million dollars” is:

one million dollars

My advice is to avoid abbreviations because they don’t scale and the reasons to use them are mostly antique. For example, to save paper.

The exception is where you define an abbreviation like “Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)” and then later in the same page say “CIA” or use a really common worldwide abbreviation like “U.S.” in context (dollars) like so:

one million U.S. dollars

But if it were Canada, I would use:

one million Canadian dollars

… because the “CA” abbreviation for Canada is also used by California, which has the same population and is at least equally famous. You just add confusion.

“US$” and “USD” are fine for banks who work all day everyday with U.S. dollars, but why encode this information like that for the typical reader to decode? You just make your document harder to read.


Nobody but bankers and Australians know what that is. How much harder is it to write:

Australian dollars


You might say it is harder to type, but that is an antique reason to abbreviate because we have autocorrect and text substitutions today. I live in San Francisco but I did not type “San Francisco” just now. I typed “SF” and my iPad typed “San Francisco.” I typed it once into my text substitution settings and never again. Computers do the work pre-publishing instead of readers doing the work post-publishing.

So we are free to just write for the reader’s understanding alone:

one billion dollars

30 trillion dollars

1.7 quintillion dollars

42 pounds sterling

67 cents

100 clams

50 quid

a stack of euros thick enough to choke a cow

share|improve this answer
I don't think this is consistent with research or experience on how people process text. Symbols and abbreviations help with scanning and chunking, and writing numbers using numerals or scientific notation makes it easier to process differences in scale. – octern Mar 28 at 18:28

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.