The human mind is good at looking for problems to solve. Luckily enough, this form of curiosity has led to the series of advancements that we enjoy today.
One of these problems includes the inquiry on whether a dollar sign should come before or after a number when written down.
Is this very concern even worth discussing? Interestingly, there’s always more to the world than meets the eye.
Let us know the quick answer to our question right off the bat.
Does the dollar come before or after the number?
In the USA, the dollar sign is placed before the amount (e.g., $15, $0.35), but the cent or centavo sign comes after the amount (e.g., 50¢) if written without the dollar sign. In Canada, writing the dollar sign either before or after the number is considered acceptable due to French influence.
Dollar sign before or after a number: Writing the dollar sign properly
Found not only on paper bills but also on shirts, memes, company logos, and even in music artists’ names, the dollar sign is a universal symbol for “the great American dream.”
For the most part, the dollar sign evokes positive feelings of abundance and prosperity, which then motivates people to work more diligently.
At times, though, this very symbol can also be the culprit in bringing out different levels of fear and anxiety among people, as it meanwhile reflects the atrociously painful prices in the market.
When confronted by such a scenario, you might even have to resort to selling your assets and properties for pennies on the dollar only.
As you can see, the dollar sign can easily serve as a two-faced deity who is responsible for the limitless polarities that exist and transitions that happen in the world.
With the mentioned grounds, writing currencies – most especially the infamous dollar sign – has become even more vitally meaningful among most, if not all, people in the world.
As the relevance of today’s post has already been laid out above, let us now proceed to our cake’s center filling.
The following sections aim to provide a detailed answer as to whether the dollar sign should come before or after the number or amount in writing.
The dollar sign and its proper placement
Writing per se already requires much time, focus, and energy to get done; this activity exempts no one in this whole living world.
What adds more insult to this already-bleeding injury is the existence of typographical symbols, punctuation marks, special characters, and currency signs in our writing system.
But, before we get deeper into today’s inquiry, you may also want to learn the meaning of (§) or section mark in detail since it could also be easily confused with the dollar sign.
So, how do we write currencies? More specifically, how do we properly write dollar signs together with numbers in the English writing system?
An easy-to-remember answer to both questions above is that, in general, most currencies including dollar signs come before the amount or number in the text.
This means that the dollar sign is almost always found at the left rather than the right side of the dollar amount in almost all written contexts, although some exceptions apply.
But, in writing amounts less than $1, a couple of options exist. The cent sign can be placed immediately after the amount when choosing to use the whole number format.
Alternatively, the dollar sign may also be used right before the amount when opting for the decimal format.
This contention is even more particularly true in the USA as well as the rest of the countries that adhere to its formatting styles despite the inconsistency at times.
One probable reason behind this boils down to the face value or visual appearance of dollar amount expressions in relation to norm and readability.
In favor of the USA-based conventions, the pre-positioned dollar sign suggests a more “visually correct” impression and, hence, more natural-looking.
On the other hand, the post-positioned dollar sign also appears to be textually odd, thereby suggesting a strange and unnatural perception.
Why so? Well, the answer is related to the way we contradictorily read and write dollar amounts, which is quite a peculiar yet also a practical case.
Reasons why writing and reading dollar signs are opposite
We typically read from left to right, which means that the pre-positioned dollar sign serves as a pre-prompting element that makes reading more efficient.
This assertion is supported by the use of the inverted question and exclamation marks in the Spanish writing system, which also provides an immediate sense of the sentence’s tone.
However, in actual speeches, it is the “price” that we are more interested in, especially because the context already provides a mutual understanding of the currency being referred to.
For that matter, our mind is conditioned to produce the expression “ten dollars” and not “dollars ten” in actual conversations instead.
In other words, we read dollar amounts in the manner described above because talking about the currency is irrelevant; we write the dollar sign before the number so as to present aid readability.
So, when facing this writing concern again in the future, just remember that writing amounts in dollars is always opposite to the way we read them.
The dollar sign in different writing systems
The dollar sign is written using the capital letter “S” with either one or two vertical lines or strokes above it. Writing the single vertical line is more practical in handwritten texts.
The symbol itself is used in more than twenty countries around the world which include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Hongkong, Singapore, Tuvalu, and Uruguay.
However, the dollar sign is otherwise known as the “peso” sign in Mexico. Mexican peso amounts can be written as “M$,” “MX$” or “Mex$.”
On a side note, the real name of the so-called “star” symbol (*) is meanwhile an asterisk and not just “little star” or “star.”
Also, the so-called “and sign” is more officially called an ampersand in technical terms. This symbol is often used in parenthetical citations in academic papers.
Name variations like in the three instances listed above are crucial in looking for more accurate information either in the virtual or actual world.
To proceed, the US-dollar currency is also widely used in the world besides the USA. Countries like Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Palau, Panama, and El Salvador also make use of it.
In general writing cases, translation authorities recommend using “US$” when referring to the US-based currency, “AU$” for Australia, and “C$” for Canada.
This means that the dollar sign is used after and not before the country code and no space should come between the country code and the dollar symbol.
The dollar amount or figure should also be immediately written after the dollar sign, hence no space should come in between the two entities.
However, in formal writing, dollars in formal writing cases, style guides also have certain recommendations when writing numerals.
The American Psychological Association (APA), for instance, specifically recommends using numerals for exact dollar amounts in all cases.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) suggests spelling out isolated amount references as much as possible to make reading easier.
To add another point, you may also want to learn how to write fractions in formal writing in more detail since this is also frequently asked by many people.
Exceptions to the pre-positioned dollar sign
As has been noted earlier, certain exceptions to the placement of the dollar sign apply, which is also caused by some historical factors.
In the European-influenced country of Canada, putting the dollar either before or after the dollar amount is largely acceptable.
In particular, this is true in the Canadian province of Quebec which used to be part of the territory of New France.
The writing convention in France is to place the currency symbol after the number together with a space after the amount; this has been influenced by the previous French franc writing format.
Commas and decimal points are also alternatively used in the rendering of amounts in the French writing system
Another notable exception is the system of writing in Portuguese escudo amounts, which is brought about by the pre-euro times.
Portugal used the cifrão (a dollar sign that always comes with two vertical lines) currency sign served as a decimal separator between the escudo and centavo amounts.
Frequently Asked Questions on “Dollar Sign Before or After a Number”
What does a dollar sign mean?
A dollar sign is a currency symbol used by many countries in the world apart from the USA. Countries like Australia, Hongkong, Singapore, and Zimbabwe make use of this symbol in writing.
Should there be one or two lines in a dollar sign?
The dollar sign can be written either with one or two vertical lines or strokes over the capital letter “S.” Using only one vertical line is predominantly used in handwritten texts for practical reasons.
Is writing “$20 dollars” incorrect?
Writing “$20 dollars” is textually redundant and, therefore, incorrect. Either the dollar sign “$” or the “dollar” word should suffice in writing this expression (e.g., $20, 20 dollars).
Currency values are crucial in determining the national economic health of countries around the world; hence, writing amounts meticulously is also nothing less than important.
Even if this seems taxing, always remember that keenness or orientation to detail is one of the most significant skills that lead to success.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.