English can be downright confusing, especially when it comes to writing percentages.
Should we write how many percent of or how much percent of?
Both “how many percent of” and “how much percent of” are incorrect. In the English language, a percentage is not used as a plural noun. The correct way to express percentage is “what percentage of.” When referring to one or more quantities, you still use the singular form.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about correctly writing percentages.
Why “What Percentage of” Is Correct
The phrase “what percentage of” is the most accurate way to ask for a percentage.
That’s because it asks for a specific measurement rather than a whole. When using this phrase, the question refers to the amount of something out of a hundred equal parts.
For example, if you wanted to know what percentage of people are in your class, you would ask, “What percentage of people are in this class?”
This phrasing is more accurate because it asks for a specific measure out of a whole number.
It also points to percent as a modifier (which is what it is).
“Percent” literally means “per hundred.” It’s a word used to describe one part out of a hundred equal others. Therefore, “percent” is a singular noun and gets followed by a preposition.
Here is a good video about writing percentages (with examples):
Why “How Many Percent is” Wrong
The use of “how many” in this context is actually incorrect.
The phrase, “how many” should get used when asking for a specific number. For example, How many students are in your class? Or How many cups of sugar are in this recipe?
The word “many” is a plural pronoun.
That means it should only get used when referring to more than one quantity. So, when you use the phrase “how many percent,” you are actually asking for a specific number of percent rather than a percentage.
This usage is also incorrect because percent is not a noun that is used in the plural form. Therefore, you should never say or write, “how many percent.”
Why “How Much Percent of” Is Wrong
“How much percent of” is also wrong.
That’s because percent refers to an entity getting divided into a hundred equal parts. When used in a sentence, it takes a portion of those parts as a single measured amount.
Therefore, the phrase “how much percent” is incorrect since it relates to a whole and not a single measure.
You would not say, “How much percent of people are in your class?” Instead, you should use, “What percentage of people are in your class?”
“How many” should only get used when asking for a quantity and not a particular amount or portion.
For example, the sentence, “How many people are in your class?” is correct.
On the other hand, the sentence “How much percent of sugar is in this recipe?” is incorrect because it’s asking for a precise amount of sugar.
Percent Is vs. Percent Are: Which Is Correct?
Both are correct, depending on what you intend to express or ask.
Percent can take both plural and singular verbs depending on what you want to highlight. If you want to emphasize the quantity, then use a plural verb.
For example, sixty percent of people are happy with the new product.
In this sentence, the emphasis is on the number of people. Therefore, it uses the plural verb, “are.”
On the other hand, if you want to emphasize the whole, use a singular verb. For example, sixty percent of the population is happy with the new product. In this sentence, the emphasis is on the population as a whole.
Therefore, it uses a singular verb (is).
While the word “population” is a collective noun referring to a multitude, it’s still considered a singular entity. That’s because it speaks of a group of people as one, singular unit.
The word “people” is a plural noun that speaks of more than one person.
Therefore, when using “people,” you should always use a plural verb. The rule of thumb is to use a plural verb when you want to emphasize quantity and a singular verb when you want to emphasize the whole.
What Percent or What Percentage: Which Is Better?
Although they might seem almost identical, the two phrases are not interchangeable.
Even if both refer to a quantity out of 100, they get used in different contexts. Percent refers to a unit of measurement in semantics.
It’s applicable in mathematical expressions to express proportions. Also, it can either get represented by a symbol or written out. In a sentence, you could say, 99% or ninety-nine percent of students are in class.
On the other hand, the percentage identifies that which is getting measured.
Syntactically speaking, a quoted amount usually precedes, “percent”. That’s not the case with “percentage.”
Here are two easy examples:
- What percentage of graduates get jobs within the first 90 days?
- Eighty-seven percent of graduates get jobs within the first 90 days.
How Do You Write a Percentage in a Sentence?
When writing a percentage in a sentence, consider:
- Sentence structure
When referring to a numerical percentage, use the symbol “%” or the word “percent.” The symbol (%) comes after the number with no space in between.
For example, you would write 99%, not 99 %.
It’s usually better to write the number and the symbol (or the word percent) at the beginning of a sentence. (e.g., Sixty percent of the population is happy with the new product).
If the sentence is long, you can use the symbol instead of the word.
When a sentence doesn’t speak of a specified number, use an adjective to describe the size of that percentage.
For example, “A large percentage of people are happy with the new product.”
How To Ask a Percentage Question in a Survey
When conducting a survey, there are different ways you can ask percentage questions.
First, ensure the questions are simple, and your responders don’t have to calculate. You can use a Likert scale or ask the respondents to rate on a scale of 1-10.
Another option is what’s called a semantic differential scale.
Here is where you present two opposite adjectives, and the respondent chooses the option that best describes their opinion.
For instance, you could ask, “In percentage terms, how satisfied are you with the new product?” and present the following options:
- Very dissatisfied (20)
- Undecided (60)
- Satisfied (80)
- Very satisfied (100)
Here are some examples of percentage questions you could include in a survey:
- What percentage of your time do you spend exercising each week?
- What is the likelihood that you would buy this product again? (0-10 scale)
Final Thoughts: Should We Write How Many Percent of or How Much Percent of?
I hope this article clears up all of your questions about writing percentages.
There are a ton of other articles on this site that can take your writing to the next level. Before you go, check out some of the hand-selected articles below.
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