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Hyphens with Numbers

Should you write 13-feet or 13 feet? Here is the rule: when you’re combining two or more words to form a compound adjective in front of a noun, put hyphens between these words.

Examples:
Lara handed me a 15-foot pole.
An eighteen-inch monitor is too big for my desk.
Emergency room nurses work 12-hour shifts.
Anthony swung his five-pound hammer.

In the above sentences, the measurements are compound adjectives describing nouns.

When numbers are not used as compound adjectives preceding nouns, don’t use a hyphen. (But remember, all two-word numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine must be hyphenated in all cases.)

Examples:
Suzanne won the race by a solid 15 feet.
The room was 17 feet long.
Twelve hours later, he was exhausted.
Anthony’s hammer weighs five pounds.

To learn more about hyphens, click here.

Pop Quiz

Correct or incorrect?

1. Stella had her hair cut six-inches last week.

2. Her party shoes had three inch heels.

3. Can you lend me your five-foot tape measure?

4. I am 5-feet-2-inches in my bare feet.

5. The water level rose 10-inches in just three hours.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Stella had her hair cut six inches last week.

2. Her party shoes had three-inch heels.

3. Can you lend me your five-foot tape measure? (Correct)

4. I am 5 feet 2 inches in my bare feet.

5. The water level rose 10 inches in just three hours.

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Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010, at 10:45 am


Writing Numbers as Both Numerals and Words

Many readers have asked me why people write numbers this way:

Example: We will need 220 (two hundred twenty) chairs.

While it is often unnecessary to have both numerals and words for the same number, and can come off as pretentious, there are two reasons for using both:

1. You are more likely to make an error when typing a numeral than when typing a word AND much less likely to spot the error when proofreading.

2. If your document is dense, has a lot of numbers, or contains large numbers, the numerical form helps your readers scan information quickly.

So by typing a combination of a numeral and a word, you are almost guaranteed accuracy and ease of reading.

 

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Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010, at 2:13 pm


Numbers as Adjectives

A subscriber recently wrote in with a question that’s a good followup to last week’s Tip of the Week, Writing Numbers:
“When are hyphens used with numbers? Is it 13 feet or 13-feet; 12 hours or 12-hours?”

Rule: Generally, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea.

This rule can also be applied when a number and a measurement unit taken together form an adjective, that is, when they describe another object.

Examples:
A 22-inch monitor is too big for my desk.
Nurses work 12-hour shifts.
Anthony swung his five-pound hammer.
In the previous sentences, the measurements, such as 22-inch, describe specific objects, such as monitor.

When measurements are not acting as adjectives, hyphens are not needed.

Examples:
Suzanne won the race by 25 yards.
Twelve hours later, she was exhausted.
Anthony’s hammer weighs five pounds.

Pop Quiz: Choose A or B.

1. A. I can’t believe she wrote a 33-page treatise on how to screw in a light bulb.
1. B. I can’t believe she wrote a 33 page treatise on how to screw in a light bulb.

2. A. I can’t believe she wrote 33-pages on how to screw in a light bulb.
2. B. I can’t believe she wrote 33 pages on how to screw in a light bulb.

3. A. Harold found a 110-year-old book at the flea market.
3. B. Harold found a 110 year old book at the flea market.

4. A. Harold found a book that must have been 110-years-old at the flea market.
4. B. Harold found a book that must have been 110 years old at the flea market.

Answers

1. A.
2. B.
3. A.
4. B.

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Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2009, at 4:07 pm


Writing Dates and Times

Rule: The following examples apply when using dates:

The meeting is scheduled for June 30.
The meeting is scheduled for the 30th of June.
We have had tricks played on us on April 1.
The 1st of April puts some people on edge. (Some prefer to write it out: The first of April)

Rule: There are differing policies for expressing decades using numerals. Some write the 1980s and the ’80s, others write the 1980’s and the 80’s. However, using two apostrophes (the ’80’s) is awkward and is not recommended.

Correct:
During the ’80s, the world’s economy grew.
During the 1980s, the world’s economy grew.
During the 1980’s, the world’s economy grew.

Not Advised:
During the ’80’s, the world’s economy grew.

Rule: Some writers spell out the time of day, others prefer numbers.

Example: She gets up at four thirty before the baby wakes up.
Example: The baby wakes up at 5 o’clock in the morning.

Rule: Some use numerals with the time of day when exact times are being emphasized.

Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22 a.m.
Example: Please arrive by 12:30 p.m. sharp.

Rule: It is clearer to use noon and midnight rather than 12:00 p.m. or 12:00 a.m.

Note: You may use AM and PM, A.M. and P.M., am and pm, or a.m. and p.m.
Some put a space after the numeral, others do not.

Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22 a.m.
Example: Her flight leaves at 6:22am.
Example: Please arrive by 12:30 P.M. sharp.

 

Pop Quiz: Correct or Incorrect?

1. The last outbreak of smallpox occurred in the late seventy’s.
2. Can you get here by 12:00 midnight?
3. Please deliver the package by August 1st.

 

Pop Quiz Answers:

1. The last outbreak of smallpox occurred in the late seventies.
2. Can you get here by midnight? (leave out 12:00)
3. Please deliver the package by August 1. (OR by the first of August OR by the 1st of August)

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Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008, at 11:24 pm


Fractions, Decimals, and Money

Rule: Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them.

Example: One-half of the pies have been eaten.

Rule: A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence.

Example: We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase.
Example: Five and one-half percent was the maximum allowable interest.

Rule: Hyphenate all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.

Example: Forty-three people were injured in the train wreck.

Rule: Replace a decimal point with and when you write out amounts on a check. You may use numerals in fraction form for cents.

Example: Fifty-two and 46/100 (“Dollars” will already be printed at the end of the line.)

Rule: Express large numbers simply. Be careful to be consistent within a sentence.

Correct: You can earn from one million to five million dollars.
Incorrect: You can earn from one million to $5,000,000.
Correct: You can earn from $500 to $5,000,000.
Correct: You can earn from five hundred dollars to five million dollars.
Incorrect: You can earn from $500 to five million dollars.

Rule: Write decimals in figures. Place a zero in front of a decimal as a courtesy to the reader.

Example: The plant grew 0.79 of a foot in one year.
Example: The plant grew only 0.07 of a foot this year because of the drought.

 

Pop Quiz: Correct or incorrect?

1. Eighty one people were injured in the train accident.
2. I wrote a check for $300, not $3,000.00.
3. Hair grows one fourth of an inch per month.
4. The tree grew .95 of a foot because of a wet winter.

 

Pop Quiz Answers: All sentences were incorrect.

1. Eighty-one
2. $3,000 (no .00)
3. one-fourth
4. 0.95

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Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008, at 11:22 pm