# How to abbreviate long numbers?

I am designing an interface which has some edge cases where a users balance could be incredibly large, such as 11 digits.

As these are edge cases I don't want to change the UI to account for them. I want to be able to shorten the number, while still allowing people to understand its meaning.

In the same way you may display `1256` as `1.2k` how would you display something like `23583578321`?

• Personally, if it is an account balance I would prefer to see it accurate in an app and not an approximation.
– Matt
Feb 20, 2020 at 19:45
• Where in that image is the balance supposed to appear? If you are designing the interface, make room for 11-digit balances in the first place. Feb 20, 2020 at 21:23
• Not like Excel, that should suffice Feb 21, 2020 at 13:36
• @Matt: especially the last digits, because those are gonna change! If I have 23 billion, I'll know that I am rich, so the first few digits can be omitted, like ...742213,89 EUR Feb 21, 2020 at 21:31

In the English language, a number that has 11 digits is Ten Billion.

You can Round it off to the nearest big number and use an approximation symbol along with it. In this case, it would be:

~23.6Bn

And you can show the actual number in the details page/tooltip etc.

UXSE use something similar:

• I actually think the ~ in front is unnecessary. If it's been abbreviated using "Bn" it's clear that it's not the exact number. IMO ~ is more appropriate when the exact number is not actually known (as is likely the case with UXSE people reached, as the number is surely not updated in real time). But if you know the exact number and are abbreviating it down I would drop the ~. Feb 20, 2020 at 21:02
• Btw, if you go this route, you should be able to tap the number to get a tooltip or other popup showing the exact amount. Feb 20, 2020 at 22:40
• If the interface is translated to other languages, it might be good to know that 11 digits is not 10 billion everywhere. Google wrongly translates billion to billón in Spanish, but 10 billones is 14 digits. 11 digits is 10 mil millones (10 thousand million). So, a Spanish speaker might interpret 23.6Bn the same as English's 23.6 trillion. Spanish trillón is 1M^3, cuatrillón is 1M^4, etc. Anyway, careful with translations.
– JoL
Feb 20, 2020 at 23:02
• As a person living in sweden, with my computer set to english, "billion" is entirely useless to me. I have no idea how locale-aware the program is, or what it uses to determine format. (Also, programs often get it wrong. Google's currency/unit converter writes numbers with comma (,) as decimal point, but then interprets it as a thousands separator. It's awful.) Please just stop at million, it's enough. Feb 21, 2020 at 1:32
• Be cautious using the `~` as it can be misread as a `−`, potentially alarming a user of a negative balance. Feb 21, 2020 at 3:33

You should put the number in a better place. You have identified that putting it in the small gap between logo and deposit button is not a great solution, and given the nature of the value in the context of banking, it is important that the verbose value be communicated to the User.

[expanding upon this answer due to popular demand]

In financial reporting, accountants should not round numbers where it affects materiality [1], is rounding 2,490,000.00 to 2.5M going to cause a problem with or for the User?

With such an abbreviation using rounding in place, what is the true value of this piece of information? A User could compare it against their memory of the value the last time they took note of it and determine whether a drastic increase or decrease has occurred (e.g. won lottery | lost all their money), however the inaccuracy and simplification of the data does not allow the User to note the kind of changes to the value that would be typical of a human being living a normal life (e.g. paycheck received | bill paid | shopping spree consequences).

So, what alternatives do you have? Well, what are you actually trying to do with this small portion of screen that holds high value due to it being at the top portion of the screen?

• Leave the space empty: depending on the density of information that will take place on the remainder of the screen, forcing some "important but abbreviated beyond use" data into it may simply increase density and detriment the User by adding to cognitive load.

• Assuming you really want to provide some measure of personal worth to the User: use iconography or perhaps a progress bar (to the next significant milestone, e.g. 1k, 5k, 10k, 20k, etc) to represent personal worth.

• This doesn't answer the question in any way shape or form... but I think it should be as the best answer because it is critical that the OP acknowledges this. Feb 21, 2020 at 21:28
• Sometimes the true Answer is that you are asking the wrong Question, grasshopper. Feb 24, 2020 at 0:27

The main factor is "What does the number indicate? and how is it important in this context?"

Here I'm assuming the number here is an account number. It is important here to identify the account number. Hence, the number can be displayed as UGX...220 or ...198220 or UGX...8220 (Assuming people remember the last few digits/letters of their account number).

If the number is the account balance, It would be as James Coyle explained.

If the number is a credit card number, the focus would again be the last four digits.

If the number is communicating impact, it would be 2M+ as in "2M+ clinics across the country"

You have to modify the view to cater to the context in the page.

• If the number is a credit card number, you want to hide all the numbers except the last four, for very different reasons than UI design Feb 21, 2020 at 17:25
• It's not an account number. According to the question, it's "a users balance"
– Cody
Feb 21, 2020 at 23:01

As it's UGX and tagged currency, I'm guessing it's Ugandan shillings.

11 digits is where I will stop trying to figure out what number it is, and start counting thousand groups, 11,000,000,000 and 110,000,000,000 are easily distinguishable. 11000000000 and 110000000000 are more or less indistinguishable to me.

In an account overview, abbreviating this to 1100M is more user friendly than printing all the zeroes. At that level, the thousands are not that interesting anyway. In an printout of account activity, every digit should be included. Focus on what matters to the user; how much are they likely to want to know from each screen.

• To facilitate the reading of numbers with many digits, these may be separated into groups of three, counting from the decimal sign towards the left and the right. Where such separation into groups of three is used, the groups shall be separated by a thin space and not by a point or a comma or by any other means.
– user134073
Feb 22, 2020 at 13:46
• Which thousand separator is used depends on locale. English-speaking countries tend to use `,` as thousands separator, and Uganda heavily influenced by British colonialism. Thus, whilst using space is the relevant ISO standard, a comma may be better suited in UG. Feb 22, 2020 at 13:50

I find the following to be the most commonly used in applications though this may be different in financial applications or depending on locality. These should be fine as long as you are consistent with your usage and you should probably show the full figure somewhere in your application.

• Thousand - K or k
• Million - M or m
• Billion - B or bn
• Trillion - T or tn

In this case 23,583,578,321 could be shown as the following:

• 23,583,578K
• 23,584M
• 24B
• Quadrillion - Qd Quintillion - Qt Sextillion - Sx Septillion - Sp Octillion - Oc Nonillion - Nn Decillion - Dc Feb 20, 2020 at 22:08
• So you are using a mixture of SI prefixes (k, M) and other abbreviations. Feb 21, 2020 at 1:22
• Be aware that in financial contexts, at least in the US And Canada, it’s historically common to use M for thousand and MM for million.
– CCTO
Feb 21, 2020 at 4:47
• Be aware that "m" stands for "milli" as in 1/1000 while "M" stands for Mega "1 000 000". Feb 21, 2020 at 21:58

Another possibility is to use scientific E notation. This avoids the ambiguity of what "a billion" refers to. For example, `23583578321` could be displayed as `2.35e10` or `2.35E10`.

Can you find out what is composed inside the numbers ? For some car parts for example the first two digits are category and subcategory , a unique key and at the end left side ( like left mirror ) back side, country version etc. So for my example it would be best to have something like UGX 13.. 24R . But try to find out what the digits represents or how the user views it. Maybe include a tooltip on tap to show the full code and a way to easy copy it or some other ways to make sure it doesn't disrupt the user experience.

Maybe it's just me being a scientist but I write all numbers in standard form (`1.23 × 10ˣ`). Makes it easy to read and get a feel for the scale of number you are dealing with. Maybe you also want to use SI-prefixes.

• However, SI prefix symbols must not stand alone without a unit symbol.
– user134073
Feb 22, 2020 at 13:47
1. If you are displaying a financial balance, I suggest you don't hide any digits but instead add a brief display, instead of replacing the full display with the brief display.

2. Personally, I find the scientific E-notation or the *10^ notation much more informative and easier to read that abbreviations such as Bn, Spn, Qad etc. as long as the exponents are multiples of 3. Another option I like to use is the SI-Prefixes e.g. K, M, G, T, P etc., however, these limit the range to the defined prefixes and the larger prefixes may not be familiar to some users.

E.g.

``````723.34
4723.34 (4.723*10^3)
34723.34 (34.723*10^3)
7234723.34 (7.234*10^6)
27234723.34 (27.234*10^6)
427234723.34 (427.234*10^6)
113427234723.34 (113.427*10^9)
23113427234723.34 (23.113*10^12)
9231113427234723.34 (9.231*10^15)
``````

or

``````723.34
4723.34 (4.723E3)
34723.34 (34.723E3)
7234723.34 (7.234E6)
27234723.34 (27.234E6)
427234723.34 (427.234E6)
113427234723.34 (113.427E9)
23113427234723.34 (23.113E12)
9231113427234723.34 (9.231E15)
``````