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If I'm talking about a length of time in a cover letter, let's say 5.5 years, what would be the correct way to write this?

  • five-and-a-half years
  • 5-1/2 years
  • 5.5 years
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2  
When using a fraction introduces problems with how the text will look or sound, change the unit of measurement. 66 months avoids the issues of hyphens (or not) and the solidus when precision is required and more than 5 years will suffice in many cases. –  Fortiter Mar 15 '13 at 2:59
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1 Answer

five and a half years

No hyphens. Hyphens are for adjective phrases:

It was a five-and-a-half-year journey.

You also don't use the hyphen with the fraction.

512 years

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...unless you're using the Chicago or AP style guides, which specify usages like one-quarter and (Chicago only, I think) five and one-half. (One of my clients is a non-profit that uses AP supplemented by an internal style sheet.) –  Neil Fein Mar 14 '13 at 22:18
1  
Eh, okay. Those grate on my eyes, but you're citing official sources. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 14 '13 at 22:57
    
True, but I'm just citing this for completeness's sake. For a cover letter to accompany a resume, Chicago/AP is unlikely to apply. @bernk, if that's what this is, just pick a method and stick to it. –  Neil Fein Mar 14 '13 at 23:28
    
Unfortunately, my copy of the Franklin Covey style guide agrees with this, although it's not the most recent edition. Even the Yahoo! style guide requires you write one-quarter, although it (interestingly) absolutely refuses to provide a ruling on how to write out numbers like "1 1/2". But in dialog or quoted speech, such as "five and a half" - none of these references offer guidance. –  Neil Fein Mar 15 '13 at 2:43
1  
@LaurenIpsum But if you want to travel to Michigan for a death match, let me know where to meet you. –  Jay Mar 19 '13 at 6:04
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