ever wondered whether to write a number as a word or as a figure? Here are
four (4) rules that will help you make the correct choice.
First, how about a little warm-up quiz?
Choose the correct numbers usage in the following sentences.
"You have thirty/30 seconds to
read these four sentences and make your choices."
"These four/4 rules apply to at
least twelve/12 common situations."
"Four hundred/400 or more people
turned out for the solstice celebration on the Stone Arch Bridge."
"Are you ready for the four/four (4)
Here they are:
1. For numbers lower than 10, use words;
for numbers of 10 or higher, use figures. In other words, write numbers of
two digits or more as figures (as in "30 seconds").
Note, however, that monetary amounts and
percentages are written as figures, not words, even when they are lower
2. Treat all numbers in a sentence or
paragraph consistently. If all the numbers are nine or lower, use words.
If the largest number is 10 or higher, use figures for all the numbers.
But note two special cases:
(a) In newspapers, magazines, and other
publications following Associated Press guidelines, single-digit numbers
in a mixed series (that is, in a series containing some numbers of 9 or
lower and some numbers of 10 or higher) do not convert to figures.
For example, in AP style, the numbers in
the parenthetical phrase in the preceding sentence would appear as "nine"
and "10," not as "9" and "10." In other words, the "nine" does not convert
(b) The consistency rule applies only to
numbers referring to the same category. For example, the second sentence
in the quiz should be written as follows: "These four rules apply
to at least 12 common situations." Because the number "four" refers
to "rules," not "situations," it does not convert to a figure.
But note: "I spelled 114 words correctly
and 3 words incorrectly," and according to AP style, "I spelled 114 words
correctly and three words incorrectly."
I know. This rule is complicated.
Fortunately, the remaining rules are simple.
3. When a number is the first word of a
sentence, spell it as a word even if it would normally appear as a figure,
as in "Four hundred or more people turned out . . ."
If possible, however, rephrase the
sentence to avoid beginning with a number, as in "At least 400
people turned out . . ."
4. Do not repeat a spelled-out number in
figures. The number in the fourth sentence (and in my opening paragraph)
should appear as "four," not "four (4)."
Back in the days when business documents
were written in longhand, numbers were written both as words and as
figures for legibility, but today it isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s silly:
"You have four (4) days to fill out these three (3) forms to verify you
are eighteen (18) years or older."
So please (please), don’t repeat
(repeat) the number (number).