The Write Stuff
Winter 2007 Volume 3 Issue 1
It’s Only a Number
Numbers are a frequent element in writing, but many people get confused about how to use them in text. Here are a few simple guidelines to help you:
- Spell out whole numbers below 10, and use figures for 10 and above. The San Jose Sharks have won 25 games so far; they have only lost seven times at home.
- Make use of million, billion or trillion when referring to very large numbers. Joe Thornton’s contract is worth more than $6 million per year.
- Drop the cents when there aren’t any. I can’t believe I paid $6 for a hot dog at the last Sharks game I attended.
- Don’t start a sentence with a figure; either spell out the number or rewrite the sentence. Eighty-two hockey games seems like too many…or…The hockey season seems too long at 82 games.
- Spell out ordinal numbers first through ninth, but use figures for 10th and above. Sharks fan Jenna is in third grade. Sharks fan Gabe is in the 85th percentile with respect to his height.
- Avoid following the word for a number with a figure in parentheses for the same number. The (6) in the following sentence is not necessary: The Sharks have six (6) shutouts this season.
- Use figures for ages, decimals and percentages. The Sharks’ median age is just 26.4; almost 50% of the roster has less than five years of National Hockey League (NHL) experience.
Can you tell I have hockey on the brain? It’s that time of year…and go Chargers, too! Speaking of the year, here’s one of my “number pet peeves”: It’s not necessary to note the year if it’s self-explanatory (unless you are dating a document). It would be silly to include 2007 in the following sentence: I’ll be heading up to Anaheim on February 7 to see the Sharks battle the Ducks.
I hope your year has gotten off to a spectacular start. Be sure to let me know if I can be of assistance for writing or editing projects.