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Percent vs. Percentage

Date: 08/17/2002 at 20:14:15
From: Alex
Subject: Math

What's the difference between percent and percentage?


Date: 08/18/2002 at 09:25:56
From: Doctor Sarah
Subject: Re: Math

Hi Alex - thanks for writing to Dr. Math.

Percent and percentage are often confused in both speech and writing.

From Merriam-Webster Online:

   http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary 

   percent
   1 plural percent 
     a : one part in a hundred 
     b : PERCENTAGE (a large percent of his income)

   percentage
   1 a : a part of a whole expressed in hundredths 
     b : the result obtained by multiplying a number 
         by a percent
   2 a : a share of winnings or profits 
     b : ADVANTAGE, PROFIT (no percentage in going 
         around looking like an old sack of laundry 
         -- Wallace Stegner)
   3   : an indeterminate part : PROPORTION
   4 a : PROBABILITY 
     b : favorable odds 

The use of percent for percentage is becoming more and more common:

   The Columbia Guide to Standard American English
   http://www.bartleby.com/68/11/4511.html 

   percent, percentage (nn.)

  "Percentage is the more widely accepted noun, 
   especially in Edited English, but Informal use 
   of percent (What percent of your time do you spend 
   watching TV?) seems thoroughly established...."

But see Prof. Charles Darling's online Guide to Grammar and Writing 
(recommended):

   http://ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/notorious2.htm 

  "We use the word percent as part of a numerical 
   expression (e.g., Only two percent of the 
   students failed.). We use the word percentage 
   to suggest a portion (e.g., The percentage of 
   students who fail has decreased.)."

This is the preferred usage for written English.

- Doctor Sarah, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ 
Associated Topics:
High School Definitions
Middle School Definitions
Middle School Fractions

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