Do We Need a Zero before the Decimal?
Date: 01/26/2005 at 00:37:05 From: Robin Subject: Using the decimal point and dollar sign Are there any set rules about using the decimal point and dollar sign even if the money amount is less than $1? Do I need to use a zero to hold the dollar place if the amount is less than a dollar? I see money amounts written in both ways--$.45 or $0.45. Are both correct? What is the benefit of using one form over the other if both are correct? I'm thinking that the zero before the decimal point is not needed, but I am not sure and would like to know the rule if there is one or the resoning behind the customary practice.
Date: 01/26/2005 at 08:28:33 From: Doctor Rick Subject: Re: Using the decimal point and dollar sign Hi, Robin. The question is the same with or without the dollar sign: do we write 0.4523 or .4523? The zero is not needed as a place holder; place holders are only needed between the decimal point and a significant digit, as in 0.045 or 430.1. (Without the place-holder zero, these would be 0.45 and 43.1, which are very different numbers.) My personal rule is to include the zero before the decimal point whenever I write a decimal less than 1. My reason for this is very practical: the decimal point can get lost easily, and having the zero there gives the reader an extra clue to look for the decimal point. I have run into trouble trying to read measurements in plans that were faxed to me, when the sender did not put in the zero: for instance, 2' .5" looked like 2' 5" so I made something 4.5 inches too long. You could do a web search for standard practices in industries such as banking, to see if anyone has formalized this rule. I do not worry about it, because my rule is practical and I can't imagine anyone objecting to it. Here is one style guide I found with a quick search, and it agrees with me: UUHSC Style Guide http://uuhsc.utah.edu/wrc/community/guide/numbers.htm If expressing a value less than one, place a zero before the decimal point to help the reader notice the decimal point: 0.5 percent, not .5 percent. However, in text write 50 cents instead of $0.50. - Doctor Rick, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
Search the Dr. Math Library:
Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.