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per cent, percent, per-cent, percentage

The spellings per cent and percent are both correct. The two-word spelling is more common in Canada and Britain, while the one-word spelling is preferred in the United States.

Use of the per cent sign

As a rule, you should use the per cent sign only with figures. Leave no space between the figure and the sign:

  • The newscaster announced a 2% increase in mortgage rates.

If you write out a number in full, use the term per cent (or percent):

  • Only eight per cent of Canada’s forests are protected from exploitation.

The sign should be restricted to tables, forms, and technical or statistical texts or other documents where figures are abundant (e.g. "29% of voters"). In general texts, the term is usually written in full (e.g. "29 per cent"), except when used adjectivally:

  • 29 per cent
  • a 29% increase

A range or series of percentages

In a range or series of percentages, repeat the per cent sign after each number:

  • 40%–60% [In a range, use the en dash between percentages.]
  • discounts of 20%, 30% and 40%

However, when using the term per cent (or percent), do not repeat it after each number. Write it out just once after the last figure:

  • 20 to 50 per cent
  • discounts of 20, 30 and 40 per cent


As a modifier, per cent may be hyphenated with the preceding word; however, the hyphen is not required and is often omitted:

  • To rid your home of ants, wipe a five-per-cent (or five per cent) acid solution around the doors and windows.
  • The results are accurate within a three-per-cent (or three per cent) margin of error.

Use of percentage

If no figure is mentioned, use percentage, not per cent:

  • What percentage (not per cent) of your company’s employees work flexible hours?

Verb agreement

The nouns per cent and percentage take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on the noun to which they refer (found in the prepositional phrase that follows them):

  • Singular verb: What percentage of our planet’s water is contained in the oceans? [refers to water]
  • Plural verb: Forty per cent of Canadian adults have difficulty reading. [refers to adults]