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Write the Right Word: Millions, Billions

We often deal with big numbers, but we may have trouble writing them correctly.

For example, use figures with millions and billions except in casual phrases. “The building addition will cost $35 million.” Or “North Dakota  produces enough potatoes annually for 171 million servings of french fries.” But “I’d love to win a billion dollars.”

Note the use of the $ symbol in the first example. Do not add the word “dollars,” as in “$35 million dollars,” because it is not necessary. The $ is recognized universally as the symbol for “dollars.”

Make sure to include the word “million” or “billion” after the first number in a range. So you would say: “Construction is estimated to cost from $5 million to $7 million.” Don’t say “from $5 to $7 million” unless you really mean the first number is $5.

Dropping the zeros and using a decimal point is the preferred way to write millions and billions unless you must use the exact number. Do not go beyond two decimal places. “North Dakota producers planted a little more than 8 million acres of wheat this year.” “The county has 7.42 billion people.”

Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,


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