Money, money, money

English style guides do differ a little about exactly how to format sums of money. But none of them do it the Dutch way.

Dutch conventions for writing sums of money can look well strange or even confusing to English speakers.

  • in particular, the habit of specifying zero cents with an equals sign or a dash or two is unknown. The Dutch can write things like
    • € 15,= and € 20,-
    • … but that convention is unknown in English. Don’t do it.
  • perhaps because of the above, Dutch writers tend to add the zero cents even when it’s implicit. There’s nothing wrong with writing €15.00 and €20.00, but it’s less readable than €15 and €20
  • then there’s the old favourite issue of decimal points and commas to delimit thousands. It applies to money as well, of course.
  • put the currency symbol before the amount and (most style guides say) don’t use a space either. Same as you would for dollars.
  • A “k” for thousands and “M” or “m” for millions (not “mil” or “mn”) are pretty widespread – no problem with that

So what’s correct? In an editing job, I would happily accept variants on the following: €15 / €15.00 / €25,000 / €25k / EUR 25,000 / EUR 1.25 million / €1,250,000 / €1.25m and would probably change anything else to match these patterns.

Although this blog is about writing, it’s maybe also worth noting the spoken form here: Dutch people often say euro rather than euros. It should be “What’s that car worth?” =>”Five thousand euros or so.” Or “How much for a coffee?” “Two euros fifty.”

Prevalence: very high. People are often not really aware that the conventions can vary from one language to the next.
Frequency: endemic. If it occurs once, it’ll occur every time – authors do tend to be consistent.
Native: no. There’s some variation in the details, but the specifically Dutch and European tricks won’t appear in native texts.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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