How to Write Fractions in Words

By Amy Harris
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.
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Fractions are types of numbers that are not whole; rather, they express parts of a whole. Fractions relate to division and are equivalent to decimals. You can express fractions numerically -- as in 5/8 -- or in words, as in five-eighths. 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 horizontal bar. The number that appears above the horizontal bar is the numerator; the number below the bar is the denominator. The denominator conveys how many pieces the whole is divided into; the numerator conveys the number of pieces of the whole that are under consideration. 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, then the hyphen and then the denominator. So in word form, the fraction 3/10 would be “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 as “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 write “one-half.” Also note that you can write a denominator of “four” in two 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 as “three-quarters.”

Hyphenating Larger Fractions

Hyphenation works a bit 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, then 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.