2132: Percentage Styles

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Percentage Styles
In a tribute to classical Latin, I started pronouncing it 'per-kent.' Eventually my friends had to resort to spritzing me with a water bottle like a cat to train me out of it.
Title text: In a tribute to classical Latin, I started pronouncing it 'per-kent.' Eventually my friends had to resort to spritzing me with a water bottle like a cat to train me out of it.


On March 29, 2019, The AP Stylebook changed a long-standing rule that forbade press writers from using the percent sign (%) when writing percentages. This had long been a controversial rule, leading to much debate over the preferable way to write percentages, before the Associated Press finally conceded the point.

The comic lists the best to worst ways in which you can write out phrases that are phonetically the same as "65%". They go from the common "65%" and "65 percent" to "65 per cent," which is not common in Randall's area and time, to the eccentric "sixty-five%" and "65 per¢" (using the cent currency symbol) which are not used in normal writing and would stand out like a sore thumb when read. The middle option, "65 per cent", was common in older literature, along with "65 per cent.", using "cent." as an abbreviation for "centum", which is Latin for "hundred". ("per" in Latin translates to "through", "for", and several other English prepositions.) The entire string would translate to "65 for every hundred." "Per cent" is more widely used in British English than in American English today.

A small gap between the ends of the bar and the best and worst options may suggest the existence of even better and worse options not listed in this comic, such as "6ty5/¢".

Other abbreviations not mentioned in the comic include "pct.", "pct" or "pc". See Percentage.

The title text references the ambiguity of hard and soft C in English. In Classical Latin, "C" is always pronounced like "K". However, in English, most "C"s before E, I and Y (including "percent") are soft, and pronounced like "S". In academia, Latin students are taught the Classical Latin pronunciations of words, rather than the pronunciation used by the Catholic church. Some students of Latin may adopt the Latin pronunciation of English words derived from Latin. Such people may tend more to pronounce, even when not the correct choice, "celtic" like "keltic" (this is the correct choice, except for the basketball team), "caesar" like "kaiser", or "cent" like "kent" (although since this involves obviously saying something others aren't going to understand unless they took the same classes, it might as well be "per kentum").

People sometimes train a cat out of a bad behavior, such as scratching upholstery, by spritzing the cat with water when the cat does the undesired behavior. In this case, Randall's friends found him so annoying they trained him out saying "per kent" by spraying him with water every time he pronounced it that way. Training people this way was previously a punchline in 220: Philosophy, while training a cat this way was previously a punchline in 1786: Trash.

Styles and their acceptability[edit]

This is the standard way of writing percentages. Randall's approval acceptability is 98%.
65 percent
This one has no space, it is more common in American English. Rating: 97 percent
65 per cent
This one has a space, it is more common in British English. Rating: 86 per cent
This one writes out the number, but not the percent sign. Rating: Sixty%
65 per¢
This one uses the cent symbol in place of the word cent, which is incorrect in this context, as cent here does not refer to a currency. Rating: 2 per¢


Percentage styles in order of acceptability
[A long vertical line is shown with five dots on it.]
[Label at the top:]
[Dot labels from top to bottom:]
[very short distance]
65 percent
[at roughly quarter scale]
65 per cent
[at roughly half scale]
[at the end]
65 per¢

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The only proper style for Britain and the US is ‘%65’. Aasasd (talk) 16:20, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

O RLY? 16:37, 3 April 2019 (UTC)
Yes. You don't write ‘65$’, do you? British/US standards should be followed properly and consistently. Aasasd (talk) 17:19, 3 April 2019 (UTC)
If there is any consistency, it is that unit follows numbers. 3', 2 m, 40 lbs, 2 l, and so on. Currency is the exception. --Klausok (talk) 10:33, 4 April 2019 (UTC)
I've definitely seen %NN stated by style guides, but I almost never see anybody using it, because reading it aloud encourages saying it as "percent sixty-five". Oddly, people seem to have no trouble remembering to write $65 instead of 65$, despite the same "dollars sixty-five" vs "sixty-five dollars" vocalization issue. Perhaps it's because we often see things like $65.95 but %65.95 is used less often? Writing 65.95% is potentially ambiguous depending on how it's read out loud: "sixty-five point ninety-five percent" could definitely be misinterpreted very easily. 65.95$ is definitely not ideal, & $65.95¢ is somehow even worse. How about 65$.95¢? ;S
ProphetZarquon (talk) 17:08, 3 April 2019 (UTC)
At https://ask.metafilter.com/7894/Is-the-form-of-100-instead-of-100-a-different-language-useage discussers encountered %NN but eventually decided it was a mistake spread by low literacy. More common is "NNpc". 20:33, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

There's also 65/100, 65:100, \textstyle\frac{65}{100}, sixtyfive-hundreth, 0.65, and point sixty-five. Benny. 16:41, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

There's also 650‰ 16:52, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

Wouldn't that be 650 hundredths? I've seen "and sixty-five ‰" a cheque before. ProphetZarquon (talk) 17:08, 3 April 2019 (UTC)
"650‰" is "650 per mille (per thousand)", and is precisely the same as "65%". RandalSchwartz (talk) 19:42, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

Even lower than 65 per¢ should be 65 per penny. -boB (talk) 20:00, 3 April 2019 (UTC)


BTW, I can imagine the transcript of this one posing some challenge for screen readers. Aasasd (talk) 17:01, 3 April 2019 (UTC) \´65

On a second thought, I can also imagine people who use screen readers never hearing any difference between the writing styles listed in the comic. Aasasd (talk) 17:24, 3 April 2019 (UTC)
[ID: A vertical scale titled "Percentage styles", with the label "Best" at the top of the scale. There are five markings, each with a different way to write "65%".]
[The first marking is near the top. It is labeled with the numeral "65" and the percent sign.]
[The second marking is just below, and labeled with the numeral "65" and the word "percent".]
[The third marking is farther down the scale, at about a quarter from the top. It is labeled with the numeral "65", the word "per", and the word "cent".]
[The fourth marking is at the middle of the scale. It is labeled with the words "sixty-five" followed by the percent sign.]
[The lowest marking at the bottom of the scale is labeled with the numeral "65", the word "per", and the cent currency symbol.] 04:57, 10 September 2023 (UTC)

This may have come up because last Friday the A.P. Stylebook announced their changes for 2019, including a change to percent. https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2019/ap-says-the-percentage-sign-now-ok-when-used-with-a-numeral-thats-shift5/


Compile here the missing styles:

  •  %65
  • 65 pc, 65 pct, 65 pct., 65 cent
  • sixty-five percent; sixty-five per cent; sixty-five per ¢
  • sixty-five per hundred; 65 for every 100
  • 65% percent; 65% per cent; 65% per ¢
  • 65/100; 65÷100; 65:100; 65 x 1/100
  • 65*10^-2; 65×10⁻²; 65×10^-2; 65*10⁻²; 6.5e-1
  • 0.65; 0,65
  • 65 per penny (wasn't this a joke?)
  • almost 2/3rds
  • 65¢^-1; 65¢⁻¹
  • 65 pennies on the dollar; 65 cents on the dollar
  • 13/20
  • \SI{65}{\per\cent}
  • LXV/C (Like the ancient Romans would write.) 19:35, 3 April 2019 (UTC)

Also 6.5e-1. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:29, 3 April 2019 (UTC)
Also simply 'cent,' which is used in property tax assessment in California. It's a pretty sneaky way to make the tax seem really small. --

Yeah, Randall dropped the ball on this one. I am disappoint. At the very least there should have been an entry where "per" was written as "/". Also since the cent sign is not on most keyboards but the dollar sign is, I would have expected "6500/$". Also, google agrees: https://www.google.com/search?q=6500%2F%24+in+cent^-1 :p 07:30, 4 April 2019 (UTC)

I was waiting for 650‰ or even 6500‱. Maybe next time. JohnHawkinson (talk) 23:13, 5 April 2019 (UTC)

What about 65/¢ or even sixty-five/¢? (sorry, this wiki doesn't use math markup at all, so not even comments can contain it). 10:17, 9 March 2023 (UTC)

= Celtic =[edit]

I suggest you remove the reference to "celtic". In modern English it's rarely pronounced "seltic" except in the names of a couple of sports teams. There is a substantial discussion of this online - just Google "pronounce celtic". Irish people are Celtic and almost zero Irish say "seltic" - except in relation to Glasgow Celtic football club. 08:28, 4 April 2019 (UTC)

oops! I figured because I learned Latin and was the only person who said 'keltic' when I saw a sports team, that I was wrong! 11:22, 4 April 2019 (UTC)


Narrow non-breaking space missing[edit]

Randall disappoints tbh. The omly proper way would be 65 %. -- 22:52, 4 April 2019 (UTC)

In English, no. In German, yes. 13:42, 9 March 2023 (UTC)

C in Latin[edit]

“In Classical Latin, "C" is always pronounced like "K".” – that’s wrong. It depends on the school (and maybe also the country). Where I learned Latin, most c were pronounced like the German z (for example in Caesar). --DaB. (talk) 13:01, 5 April 2019 (UTC)

That's not classical Latin - that's vulgar Latin. The classical Latin C derived from the Greek gamma, and is pronounced like 'K' - you can even see the derivation in the shape of the letter. You are conflating vulgar with classical here. Hyperum (talk) 04:34, 10 April 2019 (UTC)

@ IP, please do not """"correct"""" the pronunciation of kaiser (Caesar) to 'keezer' again. That isn't how Latin is pronounced. Hyperum (talk) 04:34, 10 April 2019 (UTC)

centum vs. cent vs. penny[edit]

In this context, "cent" is an abbreviation for the Latin word "centum", meaning 100. In English, the word "cent" means 1/100th of a dollar, which is one of the three official versions of the currency of the United States. They are: dollars, dimes, and cents. Substituting cent (currency) for cent (abbreviation for "centum") is a malapropism. But "penny" refers to British currency, not American. The penny (plural:pence) was 1/240 of a pound until decimalization in the 1970s, and 1/100 of a pound thereafter. Americans often refer to a one-cent coin as a "penny", but this is just a nickname, not the actual name of the coin or the value of the coin. The name of the coin is one cent. Its value is 1 cent, which equals 1/10 of a dime, or 1/100 of a dollar. Changing centum --> cent--> penny would be a double malapropism.

This begs the question, how far can we push beyond the boundaries of reason? Indeed, that is the entire spirit of Randall's premise here. Why stop with a double malapropism? We could use centum --> cent --> scent. Heck, why not centum --> cent --> penny --> penne --> macaroni --> Marconi --> Tesla. Where do we stop? Common sense tells me I'm way over the line. But common cents tell me nothing. 14:31, 8 April 2019 (UTC)

My sarcasm detector has finally broke. “That Guy from the Netherlands” (talk) 14:32, 8 April 2019 (UTC)
There may be an infinite malapropism chain as well (an example of extending the above 6× malapropism to 15×: … → Tesla → Edison[* 1] → ampere → volt → Volta → Don → John → Jones → joins → joint → joined → …), using names of physicists, units, rivers, verbs and given names. 13:55, 9 March 2023 (UTC)
  1. For the next step: 1 edison is 100 A