Should there be a space before a percent sign or not? Should you write 20% or 20 %?

I'm not sure if there is any consensus about this or not. Is one way more common than the other?

  • 23
    If you add a space before the % sign, remember to use a non-breakable space Sep 21, 2010 at 9:08
  • This is purely a matter of style. Different style guides/ schools of thought exist. It may not be desirable to set pseudo standards to encompass all situations and say "this is the right way to do it" here.
    – Kris
    Oct 2, 2012 at 14:34
  • 2
    I have never seen a space between the number and the sign.
    – Keavon
    Nov 1, 2015 at 6:37
  • 1
    In Norwegian, it is the only correct way, the reasoning being that the symbol represents a word. Hence this applies to most such symbols, such as paragraph (§) or units of measurement. Degrees, minutes and seconds (degree, plus the primes) is a special case, as they are considered part of the number (denoting the number as sextagesimal), and therefore is written without spacing.
    – Canned Man
    Nov 2, 2018 at 21:39
  • And how about “wt%?” “1 wt%?” “1wt%?” May 14 at 17:06

3 Answers 3


According to Wikipedia there is no consensus on this in English:

There is no consensus as to whether or not to include a space between the number and percent sign in English. Many authorities prescribe that there should be a space, whilst others advise against it. The brochure of the International System of Units declares in chapter 5: "a space separates the number and the symbol %". The ISO 31-0 standard also specifies a space, and the TeX typesetting system encourages using one. This is in accordance with the general rule of adding a non-breaking space between a numerical value and its corresponding unit of measurement. However, style guides – such as the Chicago Manual of Style – commonly prescribe to write the number and percent sign without any space in between.

  • 10
    That's what Wikipedia says, but I'm sceptical in this case. Another interpretation which I've heard, consistent with that passage, is that it's only the SI and ISO standards that insist on a space, while all "English" style guides advice against a space. Sep 21, 2010 at 9:03
  • 3
    It would be interesting to know if there is more consensus in other languages. I am not a native English speaker myself. I'll try to investigate this case in Swedish.
    – Johan
    Sep 21, 2010 at 9:57
  • 11
    I will add that German standards, too, use a space (see DIN 5008, Duden, etc.), but it appears that barely any German is aware of that. The style guidelines of the German Wikipedia agree that there should be a space, but even in their article on the percent sign itself that rule is occasionally ignored: for every instance with a space, there's another one without. So much for standards.
    – RegDwigнt
    Sep 21, 2010 at 14:13
  • 2
    Yet another reason not to trust the Chicago Manual of Style.
    – onewhaleid
    Apr 8, 2017 at 6:32
  • 2
    A style guide is, after all, just a guide. ISO standards are internationally agreed upon standards, hence they should always trump any style guides’ suggestions. @Johan: For Norwegian, v. my comment to the question.
    – Canned Man
    Nov 2, 2018 at 21:42

There may be no consensus among the standards bodies, but outside of technical writing at least, it doesn't matter what the ISO says. Modern U.S. usage overwhelmingly uses no space. Note that Wikipedia uses no space, as in the article for Percentage.


As a demonstration, one can download the first billion bytes of an English Wikipedia database dump (commonly used as a test file for data compression benchmarks):

user@host:/run/shm$ wget http://mattmahoney.net/dc/enwik9.zip

and count the (approximate) number of occurrences of 50 % and 50%:

user@host:/run/shm$ unzip -p enwik9.zip | fold | grep '50 %' | wc --lines


user@host:/run/shm$ unzip -p enwik9.zip | fold | grep '50%' | wc --lines

(The first 1 usages of 50 % are:

On efficacy measures, a successful antidepressant trial involves just 50 % or mo
 signifies a mere 50 % or greater reduction in depression symptoms as opposed to
* '''Beta brasses''', with 45-50 % zinc content, can only be worked hot, is hard
* '''White brass''' contains more than 50 % zinc and is too brittle for general 
was very profitable for the V.O.C., initially yielding profits of 50 % or even m
s 40 to 50 % of the capacity of the elevator. The grooves in the drive sheave ar
nt process, usually requiring at least 50 % more electricity than the energy sto
 50 % and this in turn affected both the trade-in value of used vehicles and the
er molecules. Water containing 50 % H and 50 % D actually contains about 50 % HD
he 1980s. About 50 % of these moves were within the same prefecture; the others 

and of 50%:

 50% higher than nearby forested areas because snow does not cover the trees as 
<table border=0 cellpadding=2 cellspacing=2 width=50%>
 Afghanistan as being [[Persian language|Persian]] (local name: [[Dari]]) 50% an
Note: Albania has a large gray economy that may be as large as 50% of official G
rriages occur very early in a pregnancy. Approximately 10-50% of pregnancies end
tal, and a 20% increase since 1981, 50% since 1971. Major towns are Peterhead (1
MND is typically fatal within 2-5 years. Around 50% die within 14 months of diag
nosis. The remaining 50% will not necessarily die within the next 14 months as t
n up to 50% of SOD1 cases. In people of [[Scandinavia]]n extraction there is a r
[[Cognitive]] change can and does occur in between 33&ndash;50% of patients.


  • 2
    Without space more common in English then. In Swedish, with space seems more common.
    – Johan
    May 31, 2012 at 21:09
  • 18
    That demonstration is pretty much useless without more sophisticated filtering. Why focus on '50 %' only? And obviously your current method catches HTML snippets such as width=50% -- I guess there are plenty of them in the database. Mar 31, 2014 at 9:39
  • 7
    Instead of grepping for normal space only, consider that one could use a non-breaking space (&nbsp;) and other variants thereof, plus other numbers, plus @Jan-PhilipGehrcke has a valid point about snippets. So you could use e.g. grep -Poe '(?<=[^=\d])\d+%' and grep -Poe '(?<=[^=\d])\d+(?:\p{Zs}|&\w+;)%'. The -P is necessary for the character classes (e.g. \d for any digit) to work, the -o outputs multiple matches per input line to one line per match so wc -l actually counts all matches. Mar 30, 2017 at 7:45
  • 3
    ... calling fold seems unnecessary to me (or even falsify the results). With my RegEx I get 2644:936770. However, the majority of Wikipedia editors doing this merely proves your point that the space is mostly neglected, but not whether it should be there or not. From what I read, German people tend to omit the there-mandatory space for example, yet that doesn't magically modify the respective norm. But it does look weird, I prefer a thin space " "... Mar 30, 2017 at 8:26

When the symbol % is used, there should be no space. When the "percent" word is used, there should be space.

Examples from the Chicago Manual of Style Online:

Fewer than 3 percent of the employees used public transportation.

With 90–95 percent of the work complete, we can relax.

A 75 percent likelihood of winning is worth the effort.

Her five-year certificate of deposit carries an interest rate of 5.9 percent.

Only 20% of the ants were observed to react to the stimulus.

The treatment resulted in a 20%–25% increase in reports of night blindness.

The manual explicitly advices the following:

Note also that no space appears between the numeral and the symbol %.

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