Is there a rule of when to repeat words like "thousand“, ”million“ or ”billion“? Why doesn't the first quote simply say fifteen to twenty-five thousand dollars? Why is 'thousand' repeated in the first quote while "billion" isn't repeated in the second quote?

D-League salaries range from fifteen thousand to twenty-five thousand dollars a season. - The New Yorker

They're going to spend three to four billion dollars. - The New York Times

  • 4
    A journalist or technical writer, following common style guides, would likely prefer full numbers, i.e., "3 billion to 4 billion dollars" -- to avoid any ambiguity (as mentioned in answers below). Also, many style guides advise using numerals, not words, for amounts of money and physical quantities.
    – user8356
    Commented Feb 14 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


It is a stylistic decision, but there are occasional cases where repeating yourself may be advantageous.

If you have "three to four billion dollars" omitting "billion" after "three", it's potentially ambiguous as to whether the lower bound is three (3) or three billion (3,000,000,000).

Generally in the real world there is little ambiguity, especially where one number is more than a billion times the other. In the first sentence, the difference is less, but a salary of fifteen dollars a season would be improbable, so the "thousand" after "fifteen" is likewise unnecessary.

But there are cases with a wide range of values where there may be genuine confusion. (Newly created example: "Prices of paintings range from ten to fifteen thousand dollars". It's possible to pay 10 or 10000 for a painting.)

It does no harm to repeat yourself, and some newspapers may prefer to avoid ambiguity as much as possible, even if it's probably unnecessary. On the other hand, some people may prefer to keep it short.

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    Because of all that, if you wanted to convey the 10 to 10000 example, you would probably need to say "ten dollars to fifteen thousand dollars".
    – Teepeemm
    Commented Feb 14 at 19:26
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    +1 on the price of paintings and from @Teepeemm, including that I would take it a step further. Use many more words to explain something drastic like that, especially if whoever is receiving the information knows that English may not be your first language. Maybe something like, "prices range very greatly, from around ten dollars on the low end, to well over ten thousand dollars." As a native American English speaker, to me the NYT quote is very obviously $3B to $4B. Commented Feb 15 at 21:04

No rule, just a stylistic choice.

The New Yorker could have omitted "thousand", the NYT could have repeated "billion". Omitting might be a little more casual, perhaps more like speech. You're more likely to omit when the numbers are short and close (eg "three", "four") and not when longer or more far apart (eg "fifteen", "twenty-five")

  • 1
    The New Yorker has always ploughed its own furrow, style wise. Long may it continue! Commented Feb 14 at 9:48
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    also worth mentioning that in the specific case, one possibility is that NYT had an article up against a word limit while the new Yorker tends to be more long-form. Commented Feb 15 at 5:41

"I have no idea how much a flux capacitor would cost, whether it is 15 or 20 thousand dollars". Here you should say "whether it is 15 dollars or 20 thousand dollars" if you have absolutely no clude of the price, or "whether it is 15 thousand or 20 thousand dollars" if you have some idea.

Or "I have no idea if this is a fake or a genuine diamond, so it could cost anything from 5 dollars to 10 thousand dollars".

By completing the price by adding either the currency or a word like thousand, million or billion, you make the statement unambiguous. You should do that if there is the slightest chance of ambiguity.

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