Once again, society cries out for my guidance, and I will not let my people down.
Thanks to the Internet, I’ve been noticing that a lot of people write dollar values in what I think is a curious way. (All right, I’ll call a spade a spade. It’s WRONG. They’re writing dollar values the WRONG way.) For our example, we’ll use the value of five dollars. Often, when people want to write “five dollars” in numerals, they write it as 5$, which looks very strange to me. (Or, yes, it looks WRONG to me.) Since when do we put the dollar sign after the numeral? Is this an Internet hipster thing — another rebellion against the conventions of previous generations? Or, is this just one more illiteracy (innumeracy?) in a benighted world?
I’ve seen discussions about this where some people think that putting the dollar sign before the number is confusing. “After all,” they argue, “I say ‘five dollars’, not ‘dollars five’!” Holy cow. See, it’s things like that that make my eye twitch. Look. . . The proper form is to put the dollar sign before the number. That’s the way it’s always been, and our sophisticated brains can sort out how to speak it out loud.
The root of the confusion is that you’re writing it wrong in the first place. Both $5 and 5$ are wrong. You don’t just write the numeral and then arbitrarily decide the side on which to place the dollar sign. There’s a correct style for writing dollar values.
This is the way to write “five dollars” in numerals: $5.00. The dollar sign comes first, then the numeral 5, then the decimal point, then two numerals (zeroes in this case) for the cents. Even when it’s an even dollar value with no change, you always put the decimal point and then two zeroes. And the dollar sign comes first. That’s how you do it.
And, the reason why you wouldn’t vocalize $5.00 as “dollars five” is because you’re brilliant, sensual, and charismatic, with Harvard debating skills, taut smooth skin, and the pervading scent of lilacs in June, and you would never misspeak so egregiously. I have faith in you.
But, what about an amount that’s less than a dollar — let’s say seventy-five cents. Well, that’s easy. The correct way to write that is $0.75. Again, the dollar sign first, then zero because we don’t have a full dollar, then the decimal point, then “seventy-five” in numerals. But, we don’t voice the dollar sign, even though it’s there; we just say “seventy-five cents”.
But, wait! (you exclaim) What about that sign for cents — you know, this thing: ¢. Well, what about it? Does anyone even use that, these days? There’s not much that costs less than a dollar, anymore; the five-and-dime store is dead and buried in a melancholy little corner in Potter’s Field. There’s no “¢” on my keyboard; while I write this essay, I’m actually cutting and pasting it from a website because I don’t know how to make it on the keyboard. Considering that we have now learned the way to write cents in numerals, the “¢” should no longer be an issue.
So, that’s that. The dollar sign comes first. And, I don’t want to hear any griping about how other countries put the symbol for their money after the numerals. We’re not in another country; we’re in Canada (or, I am, anyway) and we have the dollar, and that’s how it’s written. You know what to do, so go forth and multiply.
And that’s my two cents. Wait, I mean, that’s my $0.02.