Dollars and Cents

In many documents we generate in the oil industry, some of the most important things the readers will note are the costs and prices and estimated profits to be made; therefore, expressing amounts of currency in the most understandable and readable way is critical.

Bad Example:  US$3.477MM

For the dollar currency, the AP Stylebook recommends using the dollar sign ($) for all references except very casual ones and those without a numeral.

The price of West Texas Intermediate rose $2.13 today.
I’ll bet you a dollar the weekly meeting will be canceled this afternoon.
The yen increased against the dollar again today.

For amounts less than a dollar, use a numeral followed by the word “cents.” For amounts more than a dollar, use the $ and two decimal places.

My very first job was selling soda pop for 25 cents a can on weekends at the golf course across the street. My mom bought it for 10 cents a can, and I usually earned about $7.20 each day. The golfers asked me why I didn’t sell beer. I told them it was because I was only 10 years old.

Here is the preferred form for various amounts:
5 cents     $1.05     $5
$50     $500     $5,000   $500,000
$5 million     $5.55 million     $500 billion
Note that unnecessary zeroes after the decimal point are eliminated. Such zeroes should be maintained in columns or tables if any of the amounts listed contain non-zero cents.

Now, the SPE Style Guide prefers using the ISO abbreviations for currencies rather than symbols such as $, £, ¥, or €. This is because such symbols are often lost in translation to HTML online, resulting in gobbledygoop in the online database. The ISO currency abbreviations, such as USD, GBP, JPY, and EUR, can be found at this link:

If you will be using the same currency throughout a document with many amounts mentioned, such as in a proposed budget or development plan, a statement at the beginning noting that all amounts are in US dollars will suffice; then you can use the $ format described above.

Never start a sentence with an amount of money; however, an amount of money as a subject of a phrase is always singular.

Bad Example:  $555 million for the weekly lottery was a new record.
Good Example: He said $76 million is the most he would pay for that property.


2 Responses to “Dollars and Cents”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    One other thing to be aware of is the use of ‘billion’, ‘trillion’ etc. whether related to money or to volume of oil/gas etc.

    ‘Billion’ has quite a different value in the US than in other countries. For example, 1 billion in the US is a thousand x million, whereas in countries like Australia it is a million x million.

  2. Bill Denning Says:

    The URL of the list of A1 tables has changed, it’s now:

    That appears to be the easiest way to access the .xls file; the path of the spreadsheet itself is:

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