Percent vs. per cent

The one-word percent is standard in American English. Percent is not absent from other varieties of English, but most publications still prefer the two-word per cent. The older forms per-centper cent. (per cent followed by a period), and the original per centum have mostly disappeared from the language (although the latter sometimes appears in legal writing).

There is no difference between percent and per cent. Choosing between them is simply a matter of preference.



The city’s white population has a 6 percent poverty rate, lower than the white rate in every state. [New York Times]

There’s reason to believe that Gingrich’s support—pegged at about 15 percent in polling averages—is very soft. [Washington Post]

As an African-American member of the 1 percent, Tom Burrell sees himself as having a foot in two worlds. [Chicago Tribune]

Outside the U.S.

Treasury dealers were left holding 62.3 per cent of the $32bn three-year sale. [Financial Times]

It’s been a seller’s market in Greater Vancouver for 55 per cent of the last eleven years. [Vancouver Sun]

McDonald’s Corp gained three per cent after reporting January sales that were higher than analysts predicted. [Sydney Morning Herald]

18 thoughts on “Percent vs. per cent”

  1. When in high school in the ’50’s in Texas, only “per cent” was correct. I don’t know when it became correct to spell it “percent”.

  2. Well, as the usage is clear, “per cent” is grammatically correct, and “percent” is a newer form of the two words put together.

    But just as sure as that is true, so is the fact that the words, “Percentage” and “Percentile” are used around the world and no one is suggesting we separate them to “Per centage” and “Per centile” I would have to think the world will eventually embrace the conjoining of the two words as proper diction.

    Probably my most well thought out post ever. Enjoy it while it lasts…. ladies. lol.

    • Also:

      Other than context, this sentence could be confusing:
      The Canadian dollar is valued at 85 per cent per cent of US currency.

      Yeah it’s a stretch, and nobody would use that particular verbiage, but I think it gets the point across that the two could conceivably be confused.

  3. The person earned 5 points per day. The gardener pulled 12 weeds per flower planted. There is a 1 in 6 chance the die will land on a specific side, per roll. There was a twelve per cent rise in water level.

    One of these things is not like the other. One of these things does not belong.

  4. I’m Australian and I usually prefer British spellings to American spellings, but in the case of percent, I prefer the one-word option to the two-word spelling. I believe the one-word spelling makes more sense.


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