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Saying Numbers Out Loud


Date: 03/06/2002 at 12:25:08
From: Sheila Page
Subject: Oral numbers

I would like to know the correct way to say numbers.  When I say 
numbers and when I listen to other people say numbers, I hear them 
use the word "and" before the last number: for example, one hundred 
and one; two thousand, three hundred and seven.  I have recently been 
told, however, that the use of "and" is incorrect.  I am having a 
hard time reconciling what seems to me to be common usage and the 
dictate that "and" is wrong.  Can you give me some guidance, please?

Thanks,
Sheila Page


Date: 03/06/2002 at 13:59:39
From: Doctor Ian
Subject: Re: oral numbers

Hi Sheila,

I was always taught that 'and' is used only to indicate the location 
of the decimal point:

  three hundred
  three hundred twenty
  three hundred twenty-nine
  three hundred twenty-nine and three tenths
  three hundred twenty-nine and thirty-six hundredths

and so on. 

However, the Gregg Reference Manual (5th Edition) gives this example:

  seven hundred and twenty-five    ('and' may be omitted)

So if you like the way it sounds, you can always appeal to that 
citation in case someone makes a fuss. 

_The Elements of Style_ (Strunk and White) says that the 'and' should 
be retained in the phrase 'one hundred and one', which suggests that 
it should not normally be included. 

In English, there are lots of ways in which 'common' usage differs 
from 'correct' usage. People commonly mix up 'which' and 'that'; 
'compose' and 'comprise'; 'farther' and 'further'; 'quote' and 
'quotation'; and so on. Experts disagree on the importance of the 
distinctions. And, of course, what is 'correct' changes with time. 

If you stick an extra 'and' into a number, will anyone be unable to 
determine what you mean? No. Might some people who would consider this 
to be an error make a mental note that perhaps you're less 'educated' 
than you ought to be? Yes. Might that affect the way they subsequently 
interpret what you say and do? Yes. Might that, over the course of 
your lifetime, end up reducing both your income and the scope of 
opportunities that are offered to you?  Maybe.

There was a time when I would have considered this something worth 
arguing about. At this point, I no longer think of it in terms of 
'correct' or 'incorrect'. Rather, I think of it as one of many 'secret 
handshakes' for a particular club, and act accordingly.  :^D

Does this help? 

- Doctor Ian, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/   


Date: 03/06/2002 at 14:54:24
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Oral numbers

Hi, Sheila.

I'd like to add to Dr. Ian's comments the fact that this usage differs 
from country to country. I understand that proper British usage 
includes the "and," while "proper" (though not necessarily common) 
American usage excludes it. You may find this discussion interesting:

   A numerical controversy - Mini Follow-up
   http://www.improb.com/news/2001/aug/math101.html   

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/   
    
Associated Topics:
Elementary Number Sense/About Numbers
Middle School Number Sense/About Numbers

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