percent sign

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British English British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, " English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer specifically to the English language in England, or, more broa ...
) is the symbol used to indicate a
percentage In mathematics, a percentage (from la, per centum, "by a hundred") is a number or ratio expressed as a fraction (mathematics), fraction of 100. It is often Denotation, denoted using the percent sign, "%", although the abbreviations "pct.", "p ...
, a number or
ratio In mathematics, a ratio shows how many times one number contains another. For example, if there are eight oranges and six lemons in a bowl of fruit, then the ratio of oranges to lemons is eight to six (that is, 8:6, which is equivalent to the ...
as a
fraction A fraction (from la, fractus, "broken") represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts. When spoken in everyday English, a fraction describes how many parts of a certain size there are, for example, one-half, eight ...
of 100. Related signs include the
permille Per mille (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around ...
(per thousand) sign and the
permyriad A basis point (often abbreviated as bp, often pronounced as "bip" or "beep") is one hundredth of 1 percentage point. The related term ''#Permyriad, permyriad'' means one hundredth of 1 percent. Changes of interest rates are often stated in basis ...
(per ten thousand) sign (also known as a
basis point A basis point (often abbreviated as bp, often pronounced as "bip" or "beep") is one hundredth of 1 percentage point. The related term '' permyriad'' means one hundredth of 1 percent. Changes of interest rates are often stated in basis points. If ...
), which indicate that a number is divided by one thousand or ten thousand, respectively. Higher proportions use
parts-per notation In science and engineering, the parts-per notation is a set of pseudo-units to describe small values of miscellaneous dimensionless quantity, dimensionless quantities, e.g. mole fraction or mass fraction (chemistry), mass fraction. Since these f ...
.

# Correct style

## Form and spacing

English style guides prescribe writing the percent sign following the number without any space between (e.g. 50%). However, the
International System of Units The International System of Units, known by the international abbreviation SI in all languages and sometimes Pleonasm#Acronyms and initialisms, pleonastically as the SI system, is the modern form of the metric system and the world's most wid ...
and ISO 31-0 standard prescribe a space between the number and percent sign, in line with the general practice of using a
non-breaking space In word processing and digital typesetting, a non-breaking space, , also called NBSP, required space, hard space, or fixed space (though it is not of Monospaced font, fixed width), is a whitespace character, space character that prevents an Line ...
between a numerical value and its corresponding
unit of measurement A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a quantity Quantity or amount is a property that can exist as a multitude or magnitude, which illustrate discontinuity and continuity. Quantities can be compared in terms of "more", ...
. Other languages have other rules for spacing in front of the percent sign: * In
Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic, a country in Europe ** Czech language ** Czechs, the people of the area ** Czech culture ** Czech cuisine * One of three mythical brothers, Lech, Czech, and Rus' Places *Czech, ...
and in Slovak, the percent sign is spaced with a non-breaking space if the number is used as a noun. In Czech, no space is inserted if the number is used as an adjective (e.g. “a 50% increase”), whereas Slovak uses a non-breaking space in this case as well. * In Finnish, the percent sign is always spaced, and a case suffix can be attached to it using the colon (e.g. ''50 %:n kasvu'' 'an increase of 50%'). * In French, the percent sign must be spaced with a non-breaking space. * According to the Real Academia Española, in
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Cana ...
, the percent sign should be spaced now, despite the fact that it is not the linguistic norm. Despite that, in North American Spanish (
Mexico Mexico (Spanish language, Spanish: México), officially the United Mexican States, is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; to the so ...
and the US), several style guides and institutions either recommend the percent sign be written following the number without any space between or do so in their own publications in accordance with common usage in that region. * In Russian, the percent sign is rarely spaced, contrary to the guidelines of the GOST 8.417-2002 state standard. * In
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Popul ...
, the percent sign is almost never spaced, probably because Chinese does not use spaces to separate characters or words at all. * According to the
Swedish Language Council The Language Council of Sweden ( sv, Språkrådet) is the primary regulatory body for the advancement and cultivation of the Swedish language. The council is a department of the Swedish government's Institute for Language and Folklore ( sv, Ins ...
, the percent sign should be preceded by a space in Swedish, as all other units. * In German, the space is prescribed by the regulatory body in the national standard DIN 5008. * In Turkish and some other
Turkic languages The Turkic languages are a language family of over 35 documented languages, spoken by the Turkic peoples of Eurasia from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe to Central Asia, East Asia, North Asia (Siberia), and Western Asia. The Turkic languag ...
, the percent sign precedes rather than follows the number, without an intervening space. * In
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Arm ...
texts, the percent sign may either precede or follow the number, in either case without a space. * In
Arabic Arabic (, ' ; , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Streck, Janet C ...
, the percent sign follows the number; as Arabic is written from right to left, this means that the percent sign is to the left of the number, usually without a space. * In
Hebrew Hebrew (; ; ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-surviving descendants, ...
, the percent sign is written to the right of the number, just as in English, without an intervening space. This is because numbers in Hebrew (which otherwise is written from right to left) are written from left to right, as in English. *In Dutch, the official rule ( NBN Z 01-002) is to place a space between the number and the sign (e.g. "een stijging van 50 %"), but most of the time, the space is missing (e.g. "een stijging van 50%").

## Usage in text

It is often recommended that the percent sign only be used in tables and other places with space restrictions. In running text, it should be spelled out as ''percent'' or ''per cent'' (often in newspapers). For example, not "Sales increased by 24% over 2006" but "Sales increased by 24 percent over 2006".

# Evolution

Prior to 1425 there is no known evidence of a special symbol being used for percentage. The Italian term ''per cento'', "for a hundred", was used as well as several different abbreviations (e.g. "per 100", "p 100", "p cento", etc.). Examples of this can be seen in the 1339 arithmetic text (author unknown) depicted below. The letter p with its
descender In typography and handwriting, a descender is the portion of a letter that extends below the baseline of a font. For example, in the letter ''y'', the descender is the "tail", or that portion of the diagonal line which lies below the ''v'' ...
crossed by a horizontal or diagonal strike (ꝑ in Unicode) conventionally stood for per, por, par, or pur in Medieval and Renaissance palaeography. : At some point a scribe of some sort used the abbreviation "pc" with a tiny loop or circle (depicting the ending ''-o'' used in Italian ordinals, as in , , etc.; it is analogous to the English "-th" as in "25th"). This appears in some additional pages of a 1425 text which were probably added around 1435. This is shown below (source, ''Rara Arithmetica'' p. 440). : The "pc" with a loop eventually evolved into a horizontal fraction sign by 1650 (see below for an example in a 1684 text) and thereafter lost the "per". : In 1925 D. E. Smith wrote, "The
solidus Solidus (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day R ...
form () is modern."

# Usage

## Encodings

### Unicode

The
Unicode Unicode, formally The Unicode Standard,The formal version reference is is an information technology standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The standard, ...
code points are: * (HTML `&#37;`, `&percnt;`), * , * a.k.a.
basis point A basis point (often abbreviated as bp, often pronounced as "bip" or "beep") is one hundredth of 1 percentage point. The related term '' permyriad'' means one hundredth of 1 percent. Changes of interest rates are often stated in basis points. If ...
* see fullwidth forms * see Small Form Variants * , which has the circles replaced by square dots set on edge, the shape of the digit 0 in
Eastern Arabic numerals The Eastern Arabic numerals, also called Arabic-Hindu numerals or Indo–Arabic numerals, are the symbols used to represent numerical digits in conjunction with the Arabic alphabet in the countries of the Mashriq (the east of the Arab world), t ...
.

### ASCII

The ASCII code for the percent character is 37, or 0x25 in
hexadecimal In mathematics and computing, the hexadecimal (also base-16 or simply hex) numeral system is a Numeral system#Positional systems in detail, positional numeral system that represents numbers using a radix (base) of 16. Unlike the decimal system ...
.

## In computers

ITU-T The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) is one of the three sectors (divisions or units) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It is responsible for coordinating standards for telecommunications and Information Commu ...
), mod, grapes (in
hacker A hacker is a person skilled in information technology who uses their technical knowledge to achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle, within a computerized system by non-standard means. Though the term ''hacker'' has become associated in popu ...
jargon Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The conte ...
) , and the humorous double-oh-seven (in
INTERCAL The Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym (INTERCAL) is an esoteric programming language An esoteric programming language (sometimes shortened to esolang) is a programming language A programming language is a system of notation f ...
). In
computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computer, computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes, and development of both computer hardware , hardware and software. ...
, the percent character is also used for the
modulo operation In computing, the modulo operation returns the remainder or signed remainder of a division, after one number is divided by another (called the '' modulus'' of the operation). Given two positive numbers and , modulo (often abbreviated as ) is ...
in
programming language A programming language is a system of notation for writing computer program, computer programs. Most programming languages are text-based formal languages, but they may also be visual programming language, graphical. They are a kind of computer ...
s that derive their syntax from the
C programming language ''The C Programming Language'' (sometimes termed ''K&R'', after its authors' initials) is a computer programming book written by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie, the latter of whom originally designed and implemented the language, as well as ...
, which in turn acquired this usage from the earlier B. In the textual representation of URIs, a % immediately followed by a 2-digit
hexadecimal In mathematics and computing, the hexadecimal (also base-16 or simply hex) numeral system is a Numeral system#Positional systems in detail, positional numeral system that represents numbers using a radix (base) of 16. Unlike the decimal system ...
number denotes an octet specifying (part of) a character that might otherwise not be allowed in URIs (see
percent-encoding Percent-encoding, also known as URL encoding, is a method to binary-to-text encoding, encode arbitrary data in a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) using only the limited ASCII, US-ASCII characters legal within a URI. Although it is known as ''UR ...
). In SQL, the percent sign is a
wildcard character In software Software is a set of computer programs and associated software documentation, documentation and data (computing), data. This is in contrast to Computer hardware, hardware, from which the system is built and which actually perf ...
in "LIKE" expressions, for example `SELECT * FROM table WHERE fullname LIKE 'Lisa %'` will fetch all records whose names start with "". In
TeX Tex may refer to: People and fictional characters * Tex (nickname) Tex is a nickname, sometimes used for someone from the U.S. state of Texas. People *Robert Allen (actor) (1906–1998), American film actor *Tex Austin (1886–1938), American rod ...
(and therefore also in LaTeX) and
PostScript PostScript (PS) is a page description language in the electronic publishing and desktop publishing realm. It is a Type system, dynamically typed, concatenative programming language. It was created at Adobe Systems by John Warnock, Charles Gesc ...
, and in
GNU Octave GNU Octave is a high-level programming language In computer science, a high-level programming language is a programming language with strong Abstraction (computer science), abstraction from the details of the computer. In contrast to low-level ...
and
MATLAB MATLAB (an abbreviation of "MATrix LABoratory") is a Proprietary software, proprietary multi-paradigm programming language, multi-paradigm programming language and numerical analysis, numeric computing environment developed by MathWorks. MATLA ...
, a % denotes a line
comment Comment may refer to: * Comment (linguistics) or rheme, that which is said about the topic (theme) of a sentence * Bernard Comment (born 1960), Swiss writer and publisher Computing * Comment (computer programming), explanatory text or informat ...
. In
BASIC BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of General-purpose programming language, general-purpose, high-level programming languages designed for ease of use. Dartmouth BASIC, The original version was created by John ...
,
Visual Basic Visual Basic is a name for a family of programming languages from Microsoft. It may refer to: * Visual Basic .NET (now simply referred to as "Visual Basic"), the current version of Visual Basic launched in 2002 which runs on .NET * Visual Basic (cl ...
,
ASP Asp may refer to: Places * Asp, part of Densbüren, Aargau, Switzerland * Aspe (''Asp'' in Valencian), Alicante, Spain * Asp Lake, a lake in Minnesota Animals * Asp (fish) * Asp (snake), in antiquity, one of several venomous snakes ** ''Cera ...
, and VBA a trailing % after a variable name marks it as an
integer An integer is the number zero (), a positive natural number (, , , etc.) or a negative integer with a minus sign (−1, −2, −3, etc.). The negative numbers are the additive inverses of the corresponding positive numbers. In the language of ...
. In
ASP Asp may refer to: Places * Asp, part of Densbüren, Aargau, Switzerland * Aspe (''Asp'' in Valencian), Alicante, Spain * Asp Lake, a lake in Minnesota Animals * Asp (fish) * Asp (snake), in antiquity, one of several venomous snakes ** ''Cera ...
, the percent sign can be used to indicate the start and end of the ASP code <%...... %> In
Perl Perl is a family of two high-level, general-purpose, interpreted, dynamic programming languages. "Perl" refers to Perl 5, but from 2000 to 2019 it also referred to its redesigned "sister language", Perl 6, before the latter's name was offi ...
% is the
sigil A sigil () is a type of symbol used in magic. The term has usually referred to a pictorial signature of a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being who is considered divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deit ...
for hashes. In many programming languages' string formatting operations (performed by functions such as ```printf The printf format string is a control parameter used by a class of functions in the input/output libraries of C and many other programming languages A programming language is a system of notation for writing computer programs. Most pr ...``` and ` scanf`), the percent sign denotes parts of the template string that will be replaced with arguments. (See
printf format string The printf format string is a control parameter used by a class of functions in the input/output libraries of C and many other programming languages A programming language is a system of notation for writing computer programs. Most pr ...
.) In
Python Python may refer to: Snakes * Pythonidae The Pythonidae, commonly known as pythons, are a Family (biology), family of Venomous snake, nonvenomous snakes found in Africa, Asia, and Australia. Among its members are some of the largest snakes i ...
and
Ruby A ruby is a pinkish red to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide). Ruby is one of the most popular traditional jewelry gems and is very durable. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapp ...
the percent sign is also used as the string formatting operator. In the command processors COMMAND.COM (DOS) and CMD.EXE (OS/2 and Windows), %1, %2,... stand for the first, second,... parameters of a
batch file Batch may refer to: Food and drink * Batch (alcohol), an alcoholic fruit beverage * Batch loaf, a type of bread popular in Ireland * A dialect term for a bread roll Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour Flo ...
. %0 stands for the specification of the batch file itself as typed on the command line. The % sign is also used similarly in the FOR command. %VAR1% represents the value of an
environment variable An environment variable is a dynamic-named value that can affect the way running processes will behave on a computer. They are part of the environment in which a process runs. For example, a running process can query the value of the TEMP en ...
named VAR1. Thus: set PATH=c:\;%PATH% sets a new value for PATH, that being the old value preceded by "`c:\;`". Because these uses give the percent sign special meaning, the sequence %% (two percent signs) is used to represent a literal percent sign, so that: set PATH=c:\;%%PATH%% would set PATH to the literal value "`c:\;%PATH%`". In the
C Shell The C shell (csh or the improved version, tcsh) is a Unix shell created by Bill Joy while he was a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley in the late 1970s. It has been widely distributed, beginning with the 2BSD release of the B ...
, % is part of the default command prompt.

## In linguistics

In linguistics, the percent sign is prepended to an example
string String or strings may refer to: *String (structure), a long flexible structure made from threads twisted together, which is used to tie, bind, or hang other objects Arts, entertainment, and media Films * Strings (1991 film), ''Strings'' (1991 fi ...
to show that it is judged well-formed by some speakers and ill-formed by others. This may be due to differences in
dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
or even individual
idiolect Idiolect is an individual's unique use of language, including speech. This unique usage encompasses vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. This differs from a dialect, a common set of linguistics, linguistic characteristics shared among a group o ...
s. This is similar to the
asterisk The asterisk ( ), from Late Latin , from Ancient Greek , ''asteriskos'', "little star", is a Typography, typographical symbol. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star (heraldry), heraldic star. Computer scientists ...
to mark ill-formed or reconstructed strings, the
question mark The question mark (also known as interrogation point, query, or eroteme in journalism) is a punctuation, punctuation mark that indicates an interrogative clause or phrase in many languages. History In the fifth century, Classical Syriac, Syr ...
to mark strings where well-formedness is unclear, and the
number sign The symbol is known variously in English-speaking regions as the number sign, hash, or pound sign. The symbol has historically been used for a wide range of purposes including the designation of an ordinal number and as a Typographic ligature, ...
to mark strings that are syntactically well-formed but semantically nonsensical.