“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.