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How to write decimal values in words

How do you read numbers like these?

0.12 "oh point twelve", "zero point one two", "zero and twelve hundreds"

And these ones?

0.345, 12.45

  • It's very similar, but the accepted answer doesn't take into account the decimal part, nor whether the entire part is zero. – juanmah Mar 27 '12 at 10:24
  • 0.12: "zero point one two" or "nought point one two"
  • 0.345: "zero point three four five" or "nought point three four five"
  • 12.45: "twelve point four five" for the number, "twelve forty-five" for the time and perhaps for money with implicit pennies or cents.

"point twelve" is not acceptable for a decimal, as it leads to confusion as to whether "point one" means .1 or .01. After the decimal point you read each digit individually, though with times you can adjust as there may be an implicit minutes for the later digits.

You can use oh for nought or zero if you think there will be no confusion between O and 0 and o; there might be with say a password.

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    I don't think that anyone in his right mind would interpret "point one" as 0.00001 just because the other day they heard "point twelve thousand forty-five". – RegDwigнt Mar 27 '12 at 10:31
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    I think "point twelve" would be okay. The number is really twelve hundredths, so "point twelve" would be fine. Admittedly, when describing pi, I'm much more likely to say "three point one four" than "three point fourteen." Still, if someone was reading data to me, and they said "point twelve," I'd have no problem understanding that was 0.12. – J.R. Mar 27 '12 at 10:50
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    For a simple decimal number, "one point twelve" is definitely not ok. However for a paragraph number it would be fine, because it's the twelfth paragraph in section one. Such a sequence would normally be 1.1, 1.2 ... 1.9, 1.10, 1.11 ... – Andrew Leach Mar 27 '12 at 10:56
  • Why is "one point twelve" not okay? I don't see how this could lead to confusion, so is it just a matter of norms? – Fabien Snauwaert Nov 3 '18 at 7:51
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    @FabienSnauwaert: if I heard you saying "one point twelve" for 1.12, I would worry that you might say "one point ten" for 1.10 and then you might say "one point one" for both 1.01 and 1.1. This may not be a problem in Andrew Leach's paragraph numbering, but could be in mathematics – Henry Nov 3 '18 at 9:34

The treatment of numbers in language is an interesting topic. In base 10, we have terms for numbers to the left of the decimal, according to the powers of 10 they represent: e.g., 496 is four hundred ninety-six. For numbers to the right of the decimal, however--and also for numbers in bases other than 10--there isn't special terminology, and we simply speak each digit individually.

Having said that, it may be worth noting that certain common decimal values can be conveniently represented as fractions, presenting an alternative for pronunciation. Here, the rule is to state the numerator as a standard integer but the denominator as an ordinal number--singular if the numerator is 1; plural otherwise. So one-third, two-fifths, etc.

In the case of the fourths, we have options: it's common to refer to 1/4 and 3/4 as one quarter, and three quarters, while one-fourth and three-fourths are equally acceptable. With 1/2, however, we have the maverick: the only acceptable term for this fraction is one-half, which does not use the ordinal number or anything else that remotely sounds like the word two.

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