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Started April 27, 2012 - 12:11 PM


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Writing numbers in formal papers

When do I use numerals in a paper and when do I spell out the number? I know different formats such as ages, dates and times always require numerals. What other rules govern when to spell out and when not to?

#2 Soul Glo Replied April 30, 2012 - 04:00 PM

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This is a good question, Claud. There are a number of different conventions and style guides to choose from, and many of them use different methods. The format I've always preferred comes from the journalism community, and it involves using words for single-digit integers and numerals for anything that is double-digit, fractions or involving decimals.

For instance, under this method, I would say "I put four lollipops in my sneakers because I'm a weird guy" and "There are 91 cats outside my window, which is utterly horrifying." For decimals and fractions, it would look like this: "8.5" and "1/2."

This method cuts down on really lengthy written words (like "four hundred ninety-seven thousand" vs. "497,000"). The key really is consistency, though. As long as you pick a single method and use it consistently throughout the piece, it should be fine.

#3 Guest_jmango_* Replied May 02, 2012 - 10:27 AM

In general, it is acceptable to spell out a number in word form for single-digit, whole numbers (such as three or four). All other numbers can then be put into number form (such as 3.7 or 25). In certain situations where you may be listing two numbers from the same category or group that would qualify to be written differently, such as "two of the twelve houses in the neighborhood were for sale," it is more acceptable to be uniform between the forms used than to follow the qualifying rules. That is, one would not say "two of the 12 houses," but it would be acceptable to use either "2 of the 12 houses," or "two of the twelve houses," in this situation.

#4 Kris Replied May 11, 2012 - 11:47 AM


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Jmango makes a good point about staying consistent when referring to numbers within a group. I would also write it "two of the twelve" rather than "2 of the 12." Just remember that in all other circumstances, you use the written form from numbers one through nine, and use numerals from 10 and on. Fractions are also written numerically.

#5 Mr. Miyagi Replied June 25, 2012 - 08:18 AM

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I follow the style guide that is on this website. It states that you should use figures for
1. Numbers 10 and above
2. Physical dimensions - height, width, mass, volume and distance
3. Ages
4. Fractions and decimals
5. Percentages
6. Dates (spell out month)
7. Decades
8. Centuries
9. Range of numbers ( even if the numbers are less than 10 - "on a scale of 1-7")
10.Dollar amounts

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