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Write the Right Word: Percent

The Associated Press Stylebook has made a major change in its rules for “percent”: Now you use the symbol, %, instead of the word “percent” in most cases.

That affects us because Ag Comm follows the AP Stylebook for all of the editing we do.

The % symbol follows the number with no space between. For example: “Hail damaged 30% of the wheat crop and 10% of the soybean crop.”

You need to repeat the % when you give a range of percents. For example: “Between 50% and 70% of the corn crop has been planted.” “Prices on fertilizer will increase 5% to 8% in the next year.”

Try to avoid starting the sentence with a percent, but if you must, spell it out. For instance: “Twenty percent of the calves were moved to a new pasture.”

Still spell out “percentage point.” For instance, “The prices increased 4 percentage points.”

Whether the % requires a singular or plural verb depends on context. If a singular word follows the “of” in a sentence, it takes a singular verb. For example: “He said 50% of the membership was there.” But, “He said 50% of the members were there.”

Ellen Crawford, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

Filed under: Written Communication
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