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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Numbers -- Manuscript Form

1, 2, 3, 4.... Numbers! Numbers are everywhere, and I'm not talking about just at the bottom of a page.

Authors need to fine-tune their craft by reviewing the rules for using numbers in writing.  So, without further ado, I present to you the rules for using numbers in manuscript form:


1.  Do not begin a sentence with a numeral.  
     Nonstandard:  42 students ride the school bus each morning.

     Standard:  Forty-two students ride the school bus each morning.

2.  Spell out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words.  Write numbers that require more than two words as numerals.
     five million;  forty-five cents;  sixty dollars;  eighty-three;  1,685,342;  1954;  $342.58

     In statistical and technical writing, all numbers are generally written as numerals.
     Page numbers are always written as numerals (page 10).
     Numbers representing days of the month do no follow this rule, but those representing years do. 

3.  Hyphenate all compound (two-word) numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.  Do not hyphenate a fraction unless it is used as an adjective.

     There are thirty-five students in my English class.
     A three-fourths quorum was necessary to vote on changes to the club's bylaws.
     Only one third of the registered voters came to the polls.

4.  Write out numbers like third, forty-first, etc., rather than writing them as numerals with letter endings (3rd, 41st, etc.).

     The movie actress was celebrating her fifty-second anniversary in show business.

     Numbered street names may be either written out or written as numerals with letter endings.
    Dr. Winter's office is located at 651 East 62nd Street (or Sixty-second Street).

In dates, numerals only are used when the name of a month precedes the date.  When the date precedes the name of the month or stands alone, either write out the number or use a numeral with a letter ending.

     The first day of winter is December 21.
     Jack will be home on the 15th (or fifteenth) of June.

So, let there always be strength in your numbers!  Happy Writing!


  1. I'm printing this! I was just going over a report my son handed into me with lots of numbers - he was giving me the size of a lot of items - and I couldn't for the life of me remember the rules on when he'd spell and when he'd write those numbers out!
    I love your site:)

  2. What about times in writing? As in, "He went to the story at 2:30 PM." or "I'll come get you at 3:43 PM."

    Loved your explanations on all other number related aspects!

    1. I didn't see your post until now, Elle, so I apologize for not getting back to you right away.

      With regard to time, here's the rule (which is part of the rule on abbreviations): The following abbreviations are acceptable in all writing: A.D. (A.D. 1066), B.C. (44 B.C.), and A.M., or P.M. (2:30 P.M.).

      I hope this will help clear up any confusion. (I know at the hospital where I work, they refer to shift times as simply A or P, as in 7A or 7P, but that's jargon and nonstandard as far as writing is concerned.)

  3. Thank you so much for the info. I'm a writer and was looking for just this information. I'm sharing it with all my writer friends and directing them to your blog.
    Teresa Reasor


    1. I'm glad this blog is helping others, Teresa -- I really hesitated before deciding to do a blog. My writer friends gave me a shove, and this blog site is the result.

  4. Superb way of explaining, and great blog to get wonderful information.Grammarly review

  5. Thanks, Steve. I spent a lot of time trying to teach high school kids some basic grammar, so I had a lot of practice. :)

  6. How do you correctly write 1 John (First John)?