AP style percent formatting refers to the correct way to type out and format percentages in writing that follows AP style. Using percentages AP style is fairly simple and straightforward: the basic rule of thumb is to place the percent sign immediately after the number. However, due to changes in the rules over the years, it can be difficult to find good information about formatting your percentages correctly. This helpful guide will fill you in on everything you need to know about this important AP style rule.
Using statistics is a great way to add more details to an article and round out your information. If you are a freelance writer, then incorporating statistics and formatting your percentages correctly is something that clients will often appreciate. Keep reading below for easy tips about using AP style percent formatting in any of your content.
What is AP Style?
AP style is the English grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage guide of the Associated Press. All of the rules and guidelines for AP style, including how to format percentages, are found in The Associated Press Stylebook, which is currently in its 55th edition. AP style is the standard for anyone who works in print journalism, and it has also become the leading reference for most types of public corporate communication. It is used by magazines, newspapers, online publications, and for writing press releases. The main features of AP style are clarity, consistency, brevity, and accuracy.
AP Style Percent Formatting Guidelines
According to the current edition of The Associated Press Stylebook, pairing a percent sign with a numeral is acceptable—and, in fact, preferable—in most situations. This rule was announced in March of 2019. Before this announcement, the rule was to write out the full word “percent” after the numeral. For example, where now you would write “10%,” you would have previously written “10 percent.” Replacing the word with the percent sign aids in readability and brevity.
4 Tips for Writing Percentages AP Style
While the general rule of thumb for writing percentage AP style is easy to remember, here are four additional tips that will help ensure you get it right every time.
1. Formatting the Percent Sign Properly
When writing out a percentage, the percent sign should go after the number, without a space between the two. Using the percent symbol will apply in most situations.
- There is a 40% chance of rain this evening.
- The average grade on the test was 65%.
2. Writing Percentages That Aren’t Whole Numbers
When working with a percentage that isn’t a whole number, AP style recommends using decimal points rather than fractions. Decimals are easier than fractions to read.
- The mortgage interest rate is 4.2%.
- He scored 6.5% higher on the test.
3. Writing Percentages Smaller Than 1%
If you need to write a percentage that is less than 1%, then precede the decimal with a zero. A zero on the left of the decimal point improves visual clarity by making the decimal easier to see.
- The cost of living rose 0.4% last year.
- Interest rates are expected to fall by 0.5%.
4. When to Write Out the Word “Percent”
When speaking casually rather than referencing specific figures, AP style percent formatting recommends writing out the full word “percent” rather than using the percent symbol. You should write out the full number as well.
- It happens about fifty percent of the time.
- He has a zero percent chance of losing.
Common Questions About Writing Percentages AP Style
While the four tips above will cover you when writing percentages AP style, you may still have some of the following questions regarding where, when, and how to use them during the content creation process.
1. What is the Difference Between Percent and Percentage?
Percent means “per hundred.” The word itself or the percent symbol follows the numerals in the figure. Percent is used when they know specifically what the figure is. In these instances, do not use the word percentage. Instead, use the percent sign.
For example, you might say: The item is on sale for 25%.
If you don’t know the exact figure being referred to, then use the word percentage instead.
For example, you would say: A substantial percentage of people prefer their coffee black.
Rather than: A substantial percent of people prefer their coffee black.
2. Are Percentages Paired with Singular or Plural Verbs?
Figuring out whether to use a singular or a plural verb can seem tricky, but all you have to do is look at the noun the percentage refers to. Use singular verbs for singular nouns and plural verbs for plural nouns.
Singular verb example: 45% of the student body is involved in sports.
Plural verb example: 45% of students are involved in sports.
3. How Do You Write Percentages in a Series or Range?
When writing percentages in a series or list, make sure you include the percent sign after each number.
For example: You might win 10%, 25%, or 50% off the total price.
If you want to describe a range from one percentage to another, you also need to include both percent signs. To indicate a range, use one of three formats.
- 30% to 40%
- Between 30% and 40%
4. Is It Correct to Write Percent or Per Cent?
Both “percent” and “per cent” are acceptable according to AP style. American, Canadian, and British English all use “percent,” while “per cent” is found more commonly in British and Canadian publications. It is a stylistic choice among writers, editors, and publishers.
5. What is the Correct Way to Write Percentage Points?
Sometimes, you may need to refer to percentage points. Percentage points are calculated by subtracting a final value from an initial value, and they are always written as numerals.
For example: His approval rating fell 5 percentage points.
6. How Does Percentage Differ from Percentage Points?
The difference between percent and percentage points is important to note. Percent represents a ratio between two numbers, while percent change represents an increase or decrease over time.
For example, if a politician’s approval rating fell from 55% to 50%, then it is correct to say that the rating fell 5 percentage points. However, the percent change is 9.1%.
To calculate a percent decrease, subtract the new number from the original number, then divide by the original number and multiply by 100.
To calculate the percent increase, subtract the original number from the new number, then divide by the original number and multiply by 100.
7. How Do You Write Numbers That Aren’t Percentages?
Writing regular numbers AP style is different than writing percentages AP style. While you always write the percentage numeral, you should spell out the numbers one through nine for other figures. Numbers above 10 can be written as numerals unless they are at the start of a sentence.
- The four of us went out to lunch.
- There were 15 people at the event.
- Fifteen people attended the event.
Staying on Top of AP Style Changes
AP style changes slightly with each new edition. In fact, the same year that the AP style percentage rule was changed, its editors made more than 200 other updates to The Associated Press Stylebook. It can help you stay on top of your game as a writer to check out any major changes with each new edition. Most changes are small and likely won’t impact your writing much, but some are important to be aware of. For example, in 2017, it became acceptable to use the singular “they” when referring to one person.
Learning Different Style Guides
What’s more, it’s not uncommon for clients to have their own content creation style guide that includes information on preferred grammar usage, preferred spelling, brand attributes, target SEO keywords, and more. When working as a professional writer, it is important to follow the client’s specified style guide and other instructions. Doing so will ensure that all of the content they publish is consistent.
Put Your Writing Skills to Use at Constant Content
From learning AP style percent formatting to becoming familiar with different style guides, ways to improve as a freelance writer abound—and it’s always to your benefit to improve, too. Writers who take the time to hone their craft have an easier time acquiring and keeping clients that they enjoy working with.
Whether you’re just starting out or you already have a lot of experience under your belt, you can find many exciting projects and great clients to work with at Constant Content. Find clients seeking SEO copywriting, articles, how-to guides, blog posts, product descriptions, technical writing, and more. Sign up for an account today and start using your skills and know-how to impress and create lasting relationships.
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Author Details: Kerry Kubilus is Constant Content’s enthusiastic head editor. Curious and inquisitive, she loves that her job involves helping writers’ work shine while simultaneously learning about a wide variety of topics. In her time off, she enjoys first-hand research about travel, culture, and food, preferably all at once.