When Should I Spell Out Numbers?

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When writing, you may have wondered when you should spell out numbers instead of using numerals. While it may seem like a trivial detail, using the correct number format can impact the clarity and professionalism of your writing. In this article, we will discuss When Should I Spell Out Numbers and provide helpful tips for using numerals effectively.

When Should I Spell Out Numbers

Spell Out Numbers Less Than Ten

A general rule of thumb in writing is to spell out numbers less than ten. For example, instead of writing “2 apples,” write “two apples.” This rule is especially important in academic writing and formal documents such as resumes and cover letters.

Use Numerals for Numbers 10 and Above

When writing numbers that are 10 or above, it is generally acceptable to use numerals. This includes dates, ages, and percentages. For example, “The report showed a 15% increase in sales last quarter” or “She celebrated her 30th birthday last week.”

Use Numerals for Measurements and Statistics

When writing about measurements and statistics, it is best to use numerals. This includes measurements such as weight, distance, and temperature, as well as statistics such as percentages and fractions. For example, “The recipe calls for 2 cups of flour” or “The survey found that 3 out of 4 people prefer coffee over tea.”

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Use Numerals for Money and Time

When writing about money and time, it is also appropriate to use numerals. This includes currency symbols such as $, £, and €, as well as time expressions such as 12:00 PM or 3:30 PM. For example, “The concert tickets cost $50 each” or “She arrived at the office at 9:00 AM.”

Use Words for Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers, such as first, second, and third, should be spelled out. This rule also applies to smaller ordinal numbers, such as fourth and fifth. For example, “He finished in second place” or “She is the third person in line.”

Use Numerals for Cardinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers, such as one, two, and three, should be written as numerals. This rule also applies to larger cardinal numbers, such as one hundred and fifty or two thousand and twenty-two. For example, “There were 100 people at the event” or “The building has 22 floors.”

Use Words for Round Numbers

When referring to round numbers, such as ten or one hundred, it is best to spell them out. For example, “The book has ten chapters” or “The company employs one hundred workers.

Use Numerals for Exact Figures

When referring to exact figures, such as measurements, statistics, or amounts, it is best to use numerals. This provides clarity and precision in your writing. For example, “The box measures 12 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches” or “There are 365 days in a year.”

Use Words for Approximate Figures

When referring to approximate figures, such as estimates or rounded numbers, it is best to spell them out. This adds a level of informality to your writing and avoids confusion. For example, “The estimate was around five thousand dollars” or “There were about thirty people at the party.”

Use Consistent Formatting

When using numerals in your writing, it is important to be consistent with your formatting. For example, if you choose to spell out numbers less than ten, make sure you do so consistently throughout your document. This helps maintain a professional and polished appearance to your writing.

Use Exceptions Judiciously

While there are rules for when to spell out numbers and when to use numerals, there are always exceptions. For example, if you are writing a technical document or a scientific paper, you may need to use numerals for smaller numbers to maintain clarity and precision. Similarly, if you are writing a document that includes a lot of numbers, such as a financial report, it may be appropriate to use numerals for all numbers to avoid confusion.

Use Context to Determine Best Format

When deciding whether to spell out a number or use numerals, it is important to consider the context of the writing. For example, if you are writing a letter to a friend, it may be more appropriate to spell out numbers for a more casual tone. However, if you are writing a formal document, such as a legal brief, it may be best to use numerals for all numbers to maintain professionalism.

Use Symbols Appropriately

When writing numbers, it is important to use symbols, such as the percent symbol (%), appropriately. For example, when writing percentages, it is best to use the numeral followed by the symbol. For example, “The interest rate is 5%” or “The survey found that 80% of respondents preferred the new product.”

Use Commas Correctly

When writing numbers, it is important to use commas correctly to avoid confusion. In American English, commas are used to separate groups of three digits in numbers larger than 999. For example, 1,000 instead of 1000. However, this rule does not apply in all countries or in all types of writing. Always follow the guidelines of the style guide you are using.

Use Fractions Appropriately

When writing fractions, it is best to use numerals. For example, “The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sugar” or “She ran 3/4 of a mile.” However, when writing out fractions in a sentence, it is best to use hyphens. For example, “The team won by a two-thirds majority” or “She divided the pie into three-quarters.”

Use Words for Small Decimals

When referring to small decimals, such as 0.5 or 0.25, it is best to spell them out for clarity. For example, “The recipe calls for half a cup of milk” or “The survey found that a quarter of respondents had never traveled abroad.”

Use Numerals for Large Decimals

When referring to large decimals, such as 3.14159, it is best to use numerals for precision. For example, “The calculation resulted in 3.14159.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, knowing when to spell out numbers and when to use numerals is an important skill in writing. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure that your writing is clear, precise, and professional. Always consider the context of your writing and use consistent formatting to maintain a polished appearance.

FAQs

Do I always need to spell out numbers less than ten?

No, it is not always necessary to spell out numbers less than ten. However, it is generally best to do so in formal writing or academic documents.

Should I spell out numbers in a resume?

It is generally best to spell out numbers less than ten in a resume to maintain a professional appearance.

Should I spell out numbers in a cover letter?

Yes, it is generally best to spell out numbers less than ten in a cover letter to maintain a professional appearance.

When should I use numerals for money and time?

It is appropriate to use numerals for money and time expressions, such as $50 or 9:30 AM.

Should I spell out ordinal numbers?

Yes, ordinal numbers, such as first, second, and third, should be spelled out.

Should I use numerals for approximate figures?

No, it is best to spell out approximate figures, such as estimates or rounded numbers, for a more informal tone.

Should I use symbols when writing numbers?

Yes, symbols such as the percent symbol (%) or currency symbols should be used appropriately when writing numbers.

When should I use commas when writing numbers?

In American English, commas are used to separate groups of three digits in numbers larger than 999. However, this rule does not apply in all countries or in all types of writing. Always follow the guidelines of the style guide you are using.

Should I spell out small decimals?

Yes, it is generally best to spell out small decimals, such as 0.5 or 0.25, for clarity.

Should I use numerals for large decimals?

Yes, it is best to use numerals for precision when referring to large decimals, such as 3.14159. 

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