Hyphenation in References to Numbers Exercise (89)

For each pair of sentences below, choose the one that correctly inserts or omits a hyphen in a reference to a numerical quantity or proportion.

    1.
    The bylaws require a three fifths majority.
    The bylaws require a three-fifths majority.

    2.
    The statue is eight-feet tall.
    The statue is eight feet tall.

    3.
    She predicted a seventy-percent turnout for the election.
    She predicted a seventy percent turnout for the election.

    4.
    They came in second-to-last in the league standings.
    They came in second to last in the league standings.

    5.
    A quantity of one hundred forty-four is also known as a gross.
    A quantity of one hundred forty four is also known as a gross.

Answers and Explanations

1. The bylaws require a three-fifths majority.
All spelled-out fractions are hyphenated, whether they precede a noun or stand on their own (for example, in "Three-fifths of the votes were in favor of the motion").

2. The statue is eight feet tall.
Eight and feet do not constitute a phrasal adjective modifying a noun, so no hyphen is necessary. (However, the last three words in that sentence should be hyphenated when they modify a noun, as in "The eight-foot-tall statue was unveiled yesterday.")

3. She predicted a seventy percent turnout for the election.
Numbers, whether spelled out or in numeral form, are never attached to the word percent by a hyphen.

4. They came in second to last in the league standings.
A phrase such as "second to last" is hyphenated only when it precedes a noun, as in "They took second-to-last place in the standings."

5. A quantity of one hundred forty-four is also known as a gross.
Two words designating a value represented by a tens-place digit and a ones-place digit are always hyphenated, even as part of a larger number. (However, such numbers are rarely spelled out.)

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