How to Write Fractions in Words

By Amy Harris; Updated June 03, 2017
If you took one slice of pizza from a pizza that had been cut into eight equal pieces, you'd have one-eighth of the entire pizza.

Fractions express numbers that are part of a whole typically written numerically, but when you need to write them as words, spell the numbers out and use a dash between the two numerical elements such as five-eighths for 5/8. Fractions can be large or small, and the number of fractions are infinite, but if you follow some basic procedures, you can write any fraction in words.

Essential Terminology

Fractions consist of two numbers separated by a slash. The number that appears above the slash is the numerator, which expresses the number of parts, while the bottom number, the denominator, beneath the slash defines the number of parts the whole divides into. For example, if you order a pizza cut into 10 equal slices and you put three of those slices on your plate, you have 3/10 of the pizza. The numerator of this fraction is three and the denominator is 10. To express the fraction in words, write the numerator, add a hyphen and then spell out the denominator. In word form, the fraction 3/10 would be spelled out as three-tenths.

General Guidelines and Exceptions

Write the numerator of a fraction spelled out in words exactly as it appears as a numeral. With the fraction 5/9, write the numerator five. Write the fraction’s denominator as you would write the rankings of a race or contest, such as third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, bearing in mind to pluralize thirds, fourth, fifths, sixths and sevenths. Write the denominator of 5/9 as ninths. The exception to this is when the denominator equals two. For example, consider the fraction 1/2. You would never write this as one-second, instead, you would express 1/2 as one-half. Also note that you can write a four denominate in different ways: as fourths or as quarters. Although the term fourths is slightly more common, it is perfectly acceptable to write quarters. For example, you could express 3/4 correctly as either three-fourths or three-quarters.

Hyphenating Larger Fractions

Hyphenation works differently with larger fractions that contain digits higher than 20 in the numerator or the denominator. Often, these digits are already hyphenated – for instance, 45 written in words is forty-five – and additional hyphenation could lead to confusion. In such cases, omit the hyphen between the fraction’s numerator and denominator. For instance, write 45/81 as forty-five eighty-firsts, and write 17/200 as seventeen two-hundredths.

Improper Fractions

These procedures also apply to improper fractions, which are fractions in which the numerator is larger than or equal to its denominator. For instance, you would write 11/7 as eleven-sevenths”and 61/3 as sixty-one thirds.

Mixed Fractions

Mixed fractions – which are also called mixed numbers – are made up of a whole number adjoined to a fraction, such as 6 3/5. To write mixed fractions in words, write the whole number separated by the word and, and then the fractional portion. Adhere to the usual rules of hyphenation. For example, 6 3/5 becomes six and three-fifths and 38 57/64 becomes thirty-eight and fifty-seven sixty-fourths.

About the Author

Based in western New York, Amy Harris began writing for Demand Media and Great Lakes Brewing News in 2010. Harris holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Penn State University; she taught high school math for several years and has also worked in the field of instructional design.