Welcome to Raya’s Dungeon
Chamber 01 – Part 2
Nefariously Nasty Numbing Numbers
NUMBERS — WHEN TO WRITE ‘EM OUT
AND WHEN TO USE JUST THE NUMERAL
I bet you have scratched your head on this one. I know I did before I learned the rule. Anyhow, cutting to the chase, the rule is: with any number between 1 and 10, you generally spell it out, for example, one and ten. Any number AFTER ten, you write in numerals, for example, between 11 and infinity are put as numerals. Again the exception is you generally spell out a hundred, a thousand, a million or one million, a billion, a zillion. When you are stating an exact number in the upper echelons of numberdom, however, you usually put it as a numeral rather than text, eg: 1,743,299.
There are other exceptions, of course, but these exceptions actually make sense. Almost never start a sentence with a numeral, even if it is above ten, eg: Seventy-six trombones led the big parade (not: 76 trombones led the big parade.). Believe it or not, there is even an exception to this, and that is, if the number is part of a proper name, then you can start the sentence with it (although it is also gently suggested that you rephrase the sentence to avoid this), eg: 10 Downing Street is a very famous address in Great Britain.
Another exception to the above rule is if the numbers are in some sort of mathematical equations. You do not write them out then, eg: 2 x 2 = 4. Thus you might say that the giant was over seven feet tall, but in precise measurements, he was 7 ft. 4 in. or 7’4″.
The exceptions even pay attention to form. If you are writing a series of numbers in a list, you can conform them to numerals. For example, a fantasy recipe for dewberry pie:
12 drops of fresh dew
6 five-leaf clovers, shredded
100 moon beams
2 lbs. of blanched dewberries
8 cups of rainbow light
15 strands of light angel hair
Notice all the amounts are set out as numerals, although the number in the description of the clover is written out.
This last one is more a matter of style than an exception. This style requires all numbers to be written out in full when writing fiction. It is not wrong to use the numeric form, but writing the numbers out seems to be a preferred method, having to do with the look and the flow of the text. In addition the written number is less likely to be mistaken for another number, either in reading or in setting the type up for printing.
So, no more being backed up against the wall by a legion of unruly numbers clamoring for your hide. Walk out of the dungeon with your dignity, a smile on your lips, and a full head of hair 🙂 (Unless you didn’t walk in with a full head of hair, in which case no amount of tame numbers will give you that thatch of hair you’ve been dreaming of. You’d be better off trying to find a genie with a magic lamp.)