Part two on numbers in contracts

This is the 2nd part of a series on drafting numbers, ranges, dates and times in contracts. For the first part click here. Subsequent editions, identifying over 20 principles, will follow (but irregularly).

4)     Principles 1 to 3 also apply to ordinal numbers (e.g., second, fourth, 12th, 51st)[1].

Ordinals should not be abbreviated as a figure extended by st, nd, rd or th. If ordinal numbers are nevertheless abbreviated, never spell as 2d or 3d (or their larger ordinals ending in -2d or -3d)[2].

Note that the adverbs firstly, second, third and fourthly have a stronger signalling effect than their equally valid counterparts first, second, third and fourth. However, none of them should be used where the enumeration would continue with fifthly (sic) and so forth.

The cutt-off line for expressing numbers as figures or in words are less strict than for round (cardinal) numbers[3].

5)     Use commas to separate grouped thousands, and points to separate round numbers from decimals (or vice versa).

The opposite usage, of points to separate thousands and commas for decimals is found in relatively few English-speaking countries (and must therefore be discouraged). Avoid the use of hard spaces and quotes (e.g., 16 000 000 and 5’200’554). Nevertheless, quotes are common in several European languages.
For example :

EUR 2,750.75 plus EUR 1,249.25 equals EUR 4,000.

Serial and page numbers are not grouped in thousands (e.g., page 1263). Telephone, fax numbers and postal codes are not grouped, other than what a national practice may ‘impose’.
In tables write:

  • EUR ‘000 or EUR thousand, but not: in EUR 1,000.
  • Kilotonnes, kT, thousand tonnes or thousands of tonnes, but not: in 1,000 tonnes

When translating a contract or if two language versions are printed alongside each other, do not replace commas with points in the translation.

6)     Write out hundred and thousand in words or figures as is required for consistency. For (rounded) millions or higher use figures, words or their combination.

Examples:

  • 500 or five hundred, but not: 5 hundred
  • EUR 3,000, €3,000 or three thousand euro, but not: EUR 3 thousand
  • 2.5 million, 3 million, 31 billion

When writing out (very) large numbers, do not use and, except for separating the decimals. For example: EUR 150,697,345.45 (one hundred fifty million six hundred ninety-seven three hundred forty-five euro and 45 cent).

7)     Avoid abbreviating millions by M or mln.

In several languages, the abbreviation M or m is used for thousands (e.g., in French, Italian and Spanish thousand is ‘mille‘ or ‘mil‘). Note that in Roman numbering, M indicates one thousand. Do not abbreviate billions (or more).
When used, the abbreviation may either be preceded by a hard space[4] or be closed up where the preceding figure does not contain a space.
Examples:

  • EUR 375 000 m, GBP 864 000 bn
  • €375m, £864bn

[1]     The Word-shortcut-key (toggle on/off) for superscript is Ctrl-Shift =.
[2]     An exception applies to US case law citations (where this abbreviation principle is reversed).
[3]     Bryan Garner, The Redbook, a manual on legal style, 2nd edition, Thomson 2006, § 5.2(b) identifies a cut-off at twelfth.
[4]     To insert a hard space press Ctrl-Shift Space.

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