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Guide to Writing Numbers

The Arabic Numerals zero (0) through nine (9) ...

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Have you ever sat back and double-guessed yourself on when to spell out a number and when to write it as a numeral? If so, check out the rules below!

1)    Spell It Out VS. Numeral

Single-digit whole numbers are spelled out.
“S” for SINGLE-DIGIT goes with “S” for SPELLED OUT.
You use numerals for numbers greater than nine.
“N” for NUMBERS greater than NINE goes with “N” for NUMERALS.

Correct Examples:
“I want to buy two bikes.”  
“I need to print 10 booklets.”

Incorrect Examples:
“I want to buy 2 bikes.”
“I need to print ten booklets.”

2)    Mixed Single & Double-Digit Whole Numbers

When faced with a mix of single and double-digit whole numbers, if one needs to be written as a numeral, write all as numerals for consistency.

Correct Examples:
“My friend has 10 brothers but only 1 sister.”
“The teacher has 20 boys and 3 girls in his class.”

Incorrect Examples:

“My friend has ten brothers but only 1 sister.”
“The teacher had 20 boys and three girls in his class.”

3)    Consistency within Categories

To confuse the issue somewhat, we’ll now cover mixed single and double-digit whole numbers in different categories. In this case you can choose to use spelled out numbers for one category and numerals for the other. Read the examples below to demystify what I’m talking about!

Correct Example:
“If we purchase 10 computers for each of the five departments, we
will still be within budget to purchase 5 desks for each of the five
departments.” (Purchases are written as numerals. Departments are
written as words.)

Incorrect Example:
“If we purchase 10 computers for each of the five departments, we
will still be within budget to purchase five desks for each of the 5
department.”  (In this example, the categories of purchases and
departments are switched in each part of the sentence, which makes it incorrect.)

4)    Beginning of a Sentence

  • When a number begins a sentence you must spell it out. If the number is lengthy, it is advised to rephrase the sentence for ease of reading.
  • One general exception to the rule is that you may begin a sentence with a year in numeral form.

Correct Examples:
“Twenty-five soldiers manned the outpost.”
“Thirty-one patients died from the outbreak.”
“2009 was a record-breaking year for the company.”

Incorrect Examples:
“29 employees were laid off.”
“16 new jobs were created by the contract.”

5)    Numbers Side by Side

When two numbers are side by side, you should spell one out and use a numeral for the other for ease of reading.

Correct Example:
“We bought 24 ten-foot planks.”

6)    Hyphenation of Compound Numbers

All compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine should be hyphenated.

Correct Examples:
“Twenty-nine prisoners of war were released.”
“Forty-six people died during the outbreak.”

Incorrect Examples:
“Twenty six prisoners escaped.”
“There were thirty nine students in the class.”

7)   Large Numbers

  • The simplest way to express large numbers is best.
  • Rounded numbers are usually spelled out.
  • Consistency in the sentence is important.

Correct Examples:
“The population was between one million and five million.”
“You could earn anywhere from three hundred to three million dollars.”
“You could earn anywhere from $3 hundred to $3 million.”

Incorrect Examples:
“The population was between one million and 5,000,000.”
“You could earn anywhere from $300 to three million dollars.”

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  1. September 26, 2011 at 6:42 am
  2. October 3, 2011 at 6:37 am

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