I'm working on a large enterprise level financial application that has a requirement to display currency totals on a dashboard. The goal for these totals is to highlight the relative importance of one dashboard item over another (based on the total values).

Since we deal with some extremely large dollar values (frequently in the billions), we will potentially run into real estate issues when we render these dollar amounts. The ask from our stakeholders is to truncate the dollar values using some sort of notation. The suggestion is to truncate millions with 'M' and thousands with 'K'. For example, $984,432.00 would be rendered as $984K and $894,876,451 would be rendered as $894M.

My worry is that we're introducing too great a cognitive load on our users when they compare these currency values. In some cases, they will have to evaluate numbers only with values containing numbers as well as characters. My concerns may be completely irrational, but either way I would love to hear any thoughts anyone has with respect to this.

2 Answers 2


I'd talk to your users to find out how they're used to seeing large currency totals. I think it's probably fine to truncate them, as long as the values you display are consistent, so that users can quickly and easily compare different totals.

My first thought would be to include a setting or switch that allows the user to choose how they want the totals to be displayed. Something like this:

enter image description here

  • 2
    Right aligning (or decimal aligning) currency amounts also helps facilitate comparisons. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 14:51
  • Nice idea! I've updated the graphic so that the amounts are now right aligned.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 15:49
  • Thanks Michael, I really like the idea of providing customizable settings for this. My intent for asking this question was to use the feedback I received as the basis of an initial prototype which I would validate with our users, but I think a better approach would be to validate the usefulness of customizable settings. This is something I hadn’t considered.
    – Jason
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 16:24

Have you heard of something called engineering notation? It shows thousands as e3 (123e3 for 123,000) and e6 for millions (there are other ways to write it as well). If you go for uniformity and show lower numbers as e0 then you always compare the same thing: a pair of numbers, with one clearly taking precedence over the other . Once the user gets used to this it can potentially lower the cognitive load (is there a letter? What does it stand for?).

Oh and the "k" for "kilo" is lowercase while the "M" for mega is uppercase in the SI system. So you could probably make it something like - no letter - lowercase letter - uppercase letter. This also might make it easier while still giving the users something they are used to. Although it won't work if you start abbreviating billions.

  • Thanks for the response Jan. My gut is telling me that given that we’re concerned with currency values and our users typically don’t have engineering or technical backgrounds, the exponential notation probably wouldn’t go over that well. That said, I will bring it up during usability testing to see if it might be a valid option. I don’t like dismissing an idea based on gut feelings alone 😊
    – Jason
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 16:31
  • @JasonShannon I even wanted to add that it probably won't go through when writing the answer. One more idea: use a fixed width font and use a space for lack of suffix. That way it can be easily seen when quickly scanning
    – jaskij
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 16:35

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