Percent, Per Cent, or Per-Cent? Which is Correct?

Percent, Per Cent, or Per-Cent? Which is Correct?

When you are trying to figure out the portion of something compared to a whole, you are trying to figure out the percent. In most cases, the percent can be explained with the percent sign (%), but there are instances that the word needs to be spelled out instead.

You might see this word being spelled differently. The most common spellings are percent, per cent, and per-cent. Percent and per cent are both correct depending on where you are at. Per-cent is a modification of per cent that isn’t used often and isn’t even necessary.

Percent Meaning

Percent is used to describe something that is one part of one hundred. For example, if there are 100 blocks and only 10 of them are red, the red blocks make up 10 percent of the total.

Percent also refers to the basis of something whole being divided into 100 parts. For example, say that a store has a normal weekly order amount of 10 shirts. If the next week there are 12 orders, they experienced an increase of 20 percent.

Percent can also be used as an adverb to represent a part of each hundred. For example, if someone is accused of 4 charges, but only actually did 1, they are only 25 percent at fault.

Percent is the common version of the word in American English. In British English, percent is actually percents and refers to securities, like investments, that hold a certain interest rate.

You always pay around 30 percent of your paycheck to taxes.

I got an 80 percent on the quiz, so I answered 8 out of the 10 questions correctly.

She always gives 100 percent effort when she does something.

The vote went in their favor when 75 percent of the council voted yes.

Per Cent Meaning and Use

Per cent can be used in the same context as percent, but it is most common in British English.

In American English, per cent refers to the amount you can get of something at the cost of each cent. For example, you can buy wheat at a price of 4 ounces per cent. This means that if you spend 10 cents, you get 40 ounces of wheat.

I finished fifty per cent of the exam in ten minutes.

The sale is 30 per cent off all shorts.

I was able to get yeast at 2 ounces per cent, so I purchased 30 ounces.


Per-cent is another variation of per cent, but it isn’t used anywhere near as frequently. The hyphen is not necessary and is often omitted. It can be used in the same way that per cent is and it has the same meaning.

The bread was really cheap at 1 ounce per-cent, so I was able to buy 10 ounces for 10 cents.

I made it 90 per-cent to my destination before realizing I didn’t have my wallet.

My orders rose 30 per-cent over night!

Why Are they Spelled Differently?

It is commonly asked why British English has different spelling from American English. Percent and per cent mean the same thing, so what is the point of splitting the word in two?

Both percent and per cent are abbreviations of the Early English spelling per centum which means a portion of the whole.

This means that British English isn’t splitting the word in two, American English is combining two into one.

How to Remember the Difference

When you need to write out the word instead of using the symbol, take your audience into consideration. Use percent if you have an American audience and per cent if you have a British audience.