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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Number Rules: Do They Exist?

Writing numbers can be kind of ambiguous depending on the client you happen to be working for and their style guide that they use. Of course, there's always the client that doesn't reference a style guide and just goes for it on their own. Remember that your client/contract and their style is always the way you should go for specifics, but there are common number rules that are used today.

For our purposes, I will be referring to The Associated Press Stylebook, The Gregg Reference Manual and The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. There are several other styles out there, including MLA Style, The Chicago Manual of Style and more. These are only a few of the number rules laid out for any specific style. Please refer to the specific sources for more information on their individual guidelines.

  1. One of the most difficult rules to get straight is which numbers to write out and which to use numerals for. It is important to be consistent, first and foremost, and see if your client has a preferred method of their own. The Gregg states to spell out numbers one through ten, while AP Style spells out one through nine. I have found one of these is used as the fallback for most companies and clients, so be consistent to their choice.

  2. Numbers that start sentences are spelled out.

    Two hundred and fifty-two people attended their wedding.

  3. When using numbers to describe the same category in a sentence, be consistent with spelling the number out or using figures.

    My four siblings are 10, 14, 15 and 19 years old.

  4. Use figures for percentages, money, clock time, pages, sizes and other numbers with technical significance.

    The play was scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m.

    Only 6 percent of the school board voted against the memorandum.

I hope this helps clear up some confusion when using numbers for your 6, 12 or 30 clients. Remember the client is always right, even when they are wrong, so be sure to check with their specific preference if you are ever in doubt.