Mind Your Language: Per Cent Or Percent?

Mind Your Language: Per Cent Or Percent?
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Do you use per cent or percent when writing about breaking things up into parts of a hundred? There’s a technically correct way to do it.

Strictly speaking, as Australian English follows the conventions of UK English, you should use per cent with a space between each word. It’s generally regarded as being a corruption of the Latin per centum, although the Romans didn’t invent percentages as a concept. Per Cent is the UK English form, whereas American English uses percent without the space. So if you want to be correct within Australian English you should look to per cent as your style.

Language, however, is an evolving critter, and there’s a strong case for the use of percent instead when writing it down, with plenty of examples across Australian English as it is written today. Per cent is the standard, but standards can change.

The key matter with either per cent or percent is to maintain consistency within documents, because mixing the two up simply looks dreadful. For what it’s worth, the Lifehacker style is to use per cent. Which do you use?

Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.

Comments

  • I much prefer percent as a single word, as it makes more grammatical sense when you use “percentage” in the same piece of writing.

  • Percent.

    Using “per cent” is ambiguous for Australia. It’s OK for the UK as they use pence for the decimal part of their currency, whereas we use cent. To use the term “per cent” here could imply that you are describing an amount of something you have obtained for every cent of your money you have spent.

    • I completely disagreed – until your logic converted me.

      I’m usually a stickler for UK English but I think I could be swayed on this one.

      • There is also additional consistency when using words like percentage.

        I have always used percent too because of the reason given by moabboy

      • That’s a classy response.

        Language is organic. When we inherit words from multiple sources, we end up with many inconsistencies (eg. 2 moose – not mooses).

        Historically, the UK had several stages to tidy the language (see great vowel shift). However, the job was never finished.

        The per centage of people voting for percent is very high.

  • I’ve always used ‘percent’ as it looks neater…but good to know the facts. Its a little strange when people say ‘percentiles’ rather than ‘centiles’ when talking about positioning measures (such as population measures: “she is above the 27th centile…”).

    • The on page typos and spelling blunders don’t bother me so much. It’s the carrot up yer bum snooty arrogance that annoys me. If I want grammar lessons, I’ll go back to school. No doubt I’ll be moderated into nonexistence now!

        • I’m assuming that was aimed at me. Not sure why you think I can’t take a joke, I just don’t like being preached at is all.

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