“Half” or “50%”?

Last week, 260 contracts filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system include one or more references to 50%. By contrast, only 85 used the word half, and mostly in contexts where one couldn’t have used 50%, as in references to “half-time basis” and “seven and one-half percent.”

I prefer half over 50%. Saying “50% of the shares” rather than “half the shares” is like saying “I ate 1.0 apples” rather than “I ate an apple.”

But I wouldn’t take this logic any further. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend that you use one-quarter rather than 25%. One-quarter is much more cumbersome than half.

Incidentally, Garner’s Modern American Usage recommends omitting whenver possible the preposition of after half, but notes that “when a pronoun follows, the of is typically needed,” as in “half of them are.”

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

2 thoughts on ““Half” or “50%”?”

  1. I’d use 50% for two reasons. First, if I’m using numbers elsewhere in the agreement, it would be a bit peculiar to flip to words for a single instance.

    Second, I also find that numbers stick out better than the words anyway. So, for example, it’s much easier to scan and find “will pay 50% of gross sales” than “will pay half of gross sales.” This means that the business folks can find the terms quickly, and it gives them reason to stop and take notice. But, maybe that’s just me.

  2. Mike: I agree that if you’re dealing with a provision containing other percentages, you’re best off sticking with 50%. Same if you’re dealing with financial figures. But I don’t think that applies to the example in my post, “50% of the shares.” And would you say “50% of the members of the Company’s board of directors”? Ken


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