One or Two Things About Writing Numbers


In this article, I will teach you about the conventional use of numbers in writing, particularly academic writing. They are commonsense rules really, often for convenience, or ease, as you will see.

These, then, are the rules for using numbers.

  • Spell out those numbers that can be expressed in one or two words.

The journey down the river by canoe took eighteen days.

There are twenty-three children in my class.

The ferry had room for three hundred passengers.

Thousands of people visited the museum that day.

  • When numbers consist of more than two words, use numerals.

More than 350 people attended the party.

(The alternative is to write ‘three hundred and fifty’, so, as I mentioned above, it is easier to write the three-digit number.)

  • Fractions need to be spelled out.

Only one-third of the children attended school today.

  • If a sentence begins with a number, then spell out the number. If the number

consists of more than two words, it should not be placed at the beginning of

the sentence.

Seven hundred guests were told to evacuate the building.

The number of votes separating the two candidates is 3,284.

  • Spell out the words million, billion, or trillion, if they appear in a sentence.

About three million consumers were without electricity as a result of the storm last night.

  • When writing addresses, times, dates, degrees, percentages, pages, or book divisions.

Write out the word ‘dollar’ or ‘percent’ but use numerals with prices.

A yearly subscription to the magazine costs 34 dollars, which is about 20 percent less than the newsstand price.

Several Numbers in a Sentence

  • When writing two consecutive numbers, the rule is that the shorter number is written out.

We used two 16-foot poles.

  • When writing a series of numbers, be consistent. If some numbers require numerals, then use numerals for all of the numbers.

The guests consumed 300 appetizers, 4 kilograms of cheese, and 130 glasses of wine.

Cheques (US ‘checks’) for payment are rare these days. However, if you have to write a cheque you have to write the amount both in words and numbers to prevent the numbers being changed to defraud either the payer or the payee. For example, a ‘1’ could be changed to a ‘4’ or a ‘7’; spelling the number prevents this. A ‘one’ is not a ‘four’ or a ‘seven’.

On the cheque this would be written, along with a date and a signature:

Pay (name) the sum of ….. Three thousand, four hundred and sixty-five dollars and thirty-five cents.

$ 3,465.35


I hope this article has helped you understand the rules regarding numbers. By following these rules, your writing will be much improved.

As you can see, the way numbers are either spelled out or left as numerals make it easier to write and are more convenient.

© Apex English Tutoring Feb 2021

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