Everyone handles money differently: Some people budget it down to the last cent. Some people spend it as if they’ve never seen a rainy day. And, some people bury it in the backyard. Just as everyone handles money differently, you can format money differently depending on the amount and the nature of your text.
Here are some basic guidelines for writing about money in general content. These guidelines are based on The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style) and The Associated Press Stylebook (AP style). Our other primary style guides have been excluded because they provide little to no recommendations for formatting money.
All the examples shown below are for U.S. currency. “How to Write Euros and Pounds as Words and Symbols” explains how to format euros and pounds and “How to Write Non-U.S. Dollars as Words and Symbols” explains how to format dollars outside of the United States, such as Australian dollars and Hong Kong dollars.
Dollars and Cents without Numerals
Spell out references to dollars and cents without numerals.1
Lee didn’t mind paying a few more dollars to get his car waxed after it was washed.
The price of gas has dropped several cents in the past week.
Amounts of Money Less than $1
Followers of AP style should use numerals with the word cent or cents for amounts of money less than $1.2
Why does the penny candy in the jar cost 12 cents instead of 1 cent?
Retailers in Chicago must charge customers 7 cents per bag.
Other than isolated references, followers of Chicago style should use the cent sign for amounts of money less than $1. However, if the reference appears near another amount of money $1 or greater, the cents should be formatted with the dollar sign and numerals.3
The pet store donates fifty cents from every sale to the local animal shelter. (Isolated reference)
The dairy charges a 5¢ deposit per bottle.
The price of widgets has increased from $0.75 to $2.12 over the course of six months.
If you aren’t a strict follower of AP style or Chicago style, simply choose a style and follow it consistently throughout your document. Although I personally follow Chicago style, I prefer the AP’s recommendation for spelling out cent because the cent sign is not readily available on standard keyboards.
Check out “Three Ways to Insert Currency Symbols in Microsoft Word” to learn how to insert the cent sign in your Word documents.
Amounts of Money Greater than 99¢ but Less than $1 Million
Use the dollar sign and numerals for specific amounts of money great then 99¢ bus less than $1 million.4
This desk sells for $249 in New York and $239 in Chicago.
Our storage fee is $895.99 per month.
Exception: Followers of Chicago style can spell out occasional references to amounts of money that are whole numbers less than $100.5
$1 Million and Greater
Simplify large numbers by spelling out million, billion, and trillion.6 You can include up to two numerals after a decimal point, if necessary.7
The equipment upgrades will cost $1.25 million over three years.
We bought this startup for $990,000; it is now valued at $2 billion.
Although not an official style recommendation from any of our primary style guides, you may also want to consider streamlining large amounts of money by using approximate whole numbers if your readers don’t need to know the exact figure.
The neighboring property is listed for more than $6 million. (Instead of “The neighboring property is listed for $6,120,595.”)
Sales soared above $1 billion last year. (Instead of “Sales soared to $1,000,105,000 last year.)
Now that your money is formatted, find out if it’s singular or plural.
1. The Associated Press Stylebook 2020–2022 (New York: Associated Press, 2020), 90.
2. The Associated Press Stylebook 2020–2022 (New York: Associated Press, 2020), 48.
3. The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 9.20.
4. The Associated Press Stylebook 2020–2022 (New York: Associated Press, 2020), 90; The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 9.20.
5. The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 9.20.
6. The Associated Press Stylebook 2020–2022 (New York: Associated Press, 2020), 90; The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 9.24.
7. The Associated Press Stylebook 2020–2022 (New York: Associated Press, 2020), 90.