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Writing Numbers

Deciding whether to write numbers as numerals or as number words is a matter of style. The style for a literary publication may differ from the style for a journalistic publication. The key in all cases is to use a consistent style throughout your writing.

Many publishers of literary works, such as literary journals and fiction books, prefer that you spell out all numbers less than 101, then switch to numerals for 101 and above. In contrast, most newspapers, scientific journals, and popular presses in the United States prefer that you spell out all numbers less than 10, then switch to numerals for 10 and above. For all types of publications, if you use a numeral for one element of a category within a paragraph, you should use a numeral for all other elements of that category within that paragraph.

On its website, the highly regarded Chicago Manual of Style recommends “consistency ‘in the immediate context,’ which you might call ‘within eyeshot’—that is, anywhere you think a reader might be distracted by the inconsistency.” For instance, you might write the following: “We published 10 novels last year, 1 of which included 99 chapters.”

There is no global right or wrong, other than to be consistent within your own writing. If you’re using numerals for 10 and above, stick to that throughout your writing. If you’re choosing numerals just for 101 and above, spell out all smaller numbers throughout your writing.

For more tips on how to treat numbers in writing, see our English Rules web page, Writing Numbers.

 

Pop Quiz
Assume you are following the rules adhered to by popular presses in the United States.

1A. I needed only five copies of the test, not 50.
1B. I needed only five copies of the test, not fifty.
1C. I needed only 5 copies of the test, not 50.
1D. I needed only 5 copies of the test, not fifty.

2A. Please give Arthur four pencils with erasers and 15 blank sheets of paper to complete the assignment.
2B. Please give Arthur four pencils with erasers and fifteen blank sheets of paper to complete the assignment.
2C. Please give Arthur 4 pencils with erasers and 15 blank sheets of paper to complete the assignment.
2D. Please give Arthur 4 pencils with erasers and fifteen blank sheets of paper to complete the assignment.

3A. We will need three pies to feed 12 students and twelve pies to feed 50 students.
3B. We will need three pies to feed twelve students and twelve pies to feed fifty students.
3C. We will need 3 pies to feed 12 students and 12 pies to feed 50 students.
3D. We will need 3 pies to feed twelve students and 12 pies to feed fifty students.

Answers

1B. I only needed five copies of the test, not fifty.
Since the number five comes first, we follow the standard format of writing out numbers less than 10. Since both numbers are representing copies, to be consistent, we should write out both numbers.

2A. Please give Arthur four pencils with erasers and 15 blank sheets of paper to complete the assignment.
Since the number four comes first, we follow the standard format of writing out numbers less than 10. Since the second number represents sheets of paper, not pencils, we should use numerals as it is 10 or above.

3A. We will need three pies to feed 15 students and twelve pies to feed 60 students.
Since the number three comes first, we follow the standard format of writing out numbers less than 10. Since three represents pies, we will also write out twelve since it, too, represents pies. Since the number of students is above nine, we will use digits to represent 15 and 60.

Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2007, at 4:33 am


173 Comments

173 Responses to “Writing Numbers”

  1. ravi bedi says:

    She gets up at four thirty! Should we not use a dash between four and thirty?

  2. Jane says:

    According to the Chicago Manual of Style, no hyphen is used with time.

  3. Veronique says:

    Hello, I would like to know how to write out the numbers 138 and 100.38 if they are not monetary numbers, please?

    When I was at school (I am not English native speaker?, I was taught that an “and” should only be added between the hundred and ten (twenty……), eg.

    123 one hundred and twenty three
    123,456 one hundred and twenty three thousand four hundred and fifty six
    123.45 one hundred and twenty three point four five

    Am I correct? If not, could you please tell me what is the correct way to write out these numbers?? Thanks!

  4. Jane says:

    No “and” except to replace a decimal point.
    123 = one hundred twenty-three (Do use the hyphen for all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.)
    23.45 = twenty-three and forty-five hundredths

  5. Liana says:

    How does one go about age in writing? Should one spell the age or use numerals? Ex.: “A twenty-year-old student” vs. “A 20-year-old student.” Thanks!

  6. Jane says:

    Both “twenty-year-old student” and “a 20-year-old student” are correct.

  7. Margie Nunan says:

    When writing numbers of different denominations, is consistency the key, e.g., $25 instead of $25.00 and (in the same sentence) $400 (no zeroes).

    “I earned $25 for a total of $400 . . . ”

    Thank you.

  8. Tristan L. Sullivan says:

    Thank you Jane; this was most helpful.

  9. Edell Pettigrew says:

    Today, I’ve notice the time of day written without the periods after
    6pm. Is this correct?

  10. Jane says:

    You can write PM, p.m., or pm

  11. Amy says:

    When writing the age of a person or object, what is the correct placement of hyphens? For example, do you write, “the sixteen-year-old boy” or “the seven-year old program”?

  12. Jane says:

    the sixteen-year-old boy
    the seven-year-old program

  13. Jane says:

    I recommend using “cost of $1 to $3 million.”

  14. Dinah Luneke says:

    How would I correctly write “project cost of $1 to 3 million…” Is the dollar sign needed in the second instance?

  15. Kris says:

    I would like to know if you put dashes in between four and a half, etc.

  16. Jane says:

    Kris,
    Use the hyphen this way: four and one-half
    I’m not sure that you would use a hyphen if you write “four and a half.”

  17. Suze says:

    When describing the length of an object, which one is correct?

    It is 82-metre long. OR It is 82 metres long.
    It is an 82-metre-tunnel.

    Thanks^^

  18. Jane says:

    82 metres long (or meters in American English)
    82-metre tunnel

  19. Simon says:

    What about consistency with age i.e.

    “Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, seven,”

    is this correct?

    cheers

  20. Jane says:

    You would want to be consistent: Prince Michael, 12; Paris, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7.

  21. Joel says:

    I have a hyphen conundrum.

    Which is correct? Or are they both right? And Why?

    When I was seven-years-old, my brothers dared me . . .

    or

    When I was seven years old, my brothers dared me . . .

  22. Jane says:

    When the age is used as an adjective followed by a noun, hyphenate.
    Examples: He is a seven-year-old boy.
    He is seven years old.

  23. Joan says:

    Is this correct in casual and formal writing?
    In my 20s and 30s, I rode a bike.

  24. Chris says:

    What is the difference between

    She is a 9 year old girl. and She is 9 years old.

    Why is year plural in one and singular in the other and why do we add an article ‘a’ and it changes to singular (year)

    • Jane says:

      She is a 9-year-old girl.
      Use hyphens to form a compound adjective in front of a noun.

      She is 9 years old.
      There is no noun following so no hyphens are used.

  25. Veridique Online Transcription says:

    Hi, Jane!

    If “years old” are not mentioned in a sentence, would that then mean that ages should be written using the “default” number writing rules of spelling out ages under 10, or should the age be expressed as a numeral regardless?

    Ex:
    She’s four and hasn’t started first grade. (And, whoops — 1st or first?)
    -or-
    She’s 4 and hasn’t started first grade.

    Thanks in advance. This has proven an *awesome* resource for myself and my transcribers.

    • Jane says:

      You can use either a numeral or a word to express ages under 10. Some resources prefer the word spelled out: She’s four and hasn’t started first grade.
      Yes, “first” is preferred over “1st” but it’s not a big deal.

  26. josh says:

    question about writing age…

    ok, so “in 1993 he was twenty-six” is correct and “in 1993 he was 26″ is incorrect

    i know that you said if you have two different categories of numbers, to differentiate between the two, but what is the rule for writing someone’s age in general?

  27. Pablo says:

    Hi,

    How could i write the following number:
    $1,199.02. What I have to use for the decimal part.
    Thanks,

  28. Faith says:

    I have to write a report and I want to combine the sentence to include the age and gender of the child.

    Right now it looks like this….
    Bobby is a 10 years old and 3 months old male.

    I’ve tried a bunch of variations of this and none of them look quite right. How should I write that sentence?

  29. Rosi says:

    Hi, Jane,

    I’m from Brazil. Sorry but I do not write well. I’m learning your language. How I can write this?

    We examined 102 12 year old children from public schools in Manaus.

    Is it correct in English these numbers together? Or I need to write someone … well I don’t know how to write the word, will be in full “por extenso”, like twelve?

    Thank you, in advance.

  30. Rosi says:

    Jane,
    Please, I have two doubts:
    1st. Are there rules about numbers and the degree symbol?

    e.g.
    … and different temperatures of 30°C for the white one, and 10, 20 and 35°C for the purple one…

    or

    … and different temperatures of 30°C for the white one, and 10ºC, 20ºC and 35°C for the purple one…

    2nd- How I use numbers and the symbol of percentage?

    …80 and 95% of the respondents or 80 percent and 95 percent of …

    Thank you in advanced

    • Jane says:

      It is best to write these examples as follows: 10ºC, 20ºC, and 35°C AND
      80 percent and 95 percent OR
      80% and 95%
      Otherwise, your reader will not know what you are talking about until the end.

  31. Rosi says:

    Hi, Jane,
    I have some douts again about numbers and symbols:

    (1) patients scored the pain levels 24, 48, 72 and 120 hours after using the tab…

    (2) … available for 48-72 hours before… or … available for 48 and 72 hours before…

    (3) She retorned at 24-h (is it correct?) yesterday

    Thank you

    • Jane says:

      1. Patients scored the pain levels 24, 48, 72, and 120 hours after using the tab. (I advise using the comma before “and” in a series to avoid any confusion: Commas, Rule 1)
      2. “48-72 hours before” is correct If you mean continuously over that period of time. “48 and 72 hours before” is correct if you mean only at those two points in time.
      3. She returned at 2400 hours yesterday. (That would be correct for military time, if you’re stating what time she returned.) or
      She returned after 24 hours. (If you are stating how long it was before she returned.)

  32. Terri says:

    Dear Jane,

    I have a question about the singular/ plural use in age.
    Isn’t it common to say, “She is one years old” ?
    But is this correct? Would you pluralize the age of one
    just as we singularize,”My ten-year-old” ?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

  33. Terri says:

    Dear Jane,

    When referring to age with the Be verb –
    Don’t we say, “She is one years old?”

    Thank you for your clarification

  34. Super John says:

    Hello Jane,

    How about when I’m listing a series of ages, all of which will share the same ‘years-old’ at the end of the list – do a put a hanging hyphen at the end of each number?

    Ex: 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds.
    -or-
    10, 11 and 12-year-olds.

    Thank for doing this, by the way.

    -John

    • Jane says:

      AP Stylebook recognizes this as a suspensive hyphen. It is used when hyphenated words occur in sets of two or more and the first or second part of the compound is only used once.

      10-, 11-, and 12-year olds

  35. Sarah says:

    Is this correct?

    A group of 7.5 — to 12-year-old children

    Or, should it be written this way?

    A group of 7.5- to 12-year-old children…

    • Jane says:

      The use of a decimal number seems awkward in this sentence. It would seem more natural to use fractions when speaking of ages. Also, in the phrase “A group of 7 1/2- to 12-year-old children,” the hyphenated phrasal adjective “7 1/2- to 12-year-old” seems to be slightly confusing to the reader. According to The Chicago Manual of Style 5.91, “If a phrasal adjective becomes awkward, the sentence should probably be recast.” I would, therefore, reword to say, “A group of children ranging in ages from 7 1/2 to 12 years old.”

      • Betty says:

        So you’re saying on an earlier post that if someone is giving a range of ages that it should be written 13 to 19 year olds, not 13-to-19 year olds?

        Thank you.

        • Jane says:

          You could write “13- to 19-year-olds.” It is called a suspended hyphen. Or, you could rewrite the sentence in non-adjectival form as children ranging in age from 13 to 19 years old.

  36. Jean says:

    Are both of these correct?

    one-quarter liter pottery pitchers

    and

    1/4-liter pottery pitchers

    Thanks!

  37. Paula says:

    I often hear people say August of 2008. Is this written out like that? I always change it to August 2008. Thanks!

    • Jane says:

      You’re right, when writing dates, the word “of” should not be included. However, many people do insert the word “of” when speaking about a date.

  38. Terrie says:

    How does this look?

    Requirements for a 17-year-old student requesting to enroll in JCJC Adult Basic Education/GED Preparation Classes:

  39. JB says:

    MLA requires that all numbers below 100 be spelled out. Is is exclusive to APA that numbers above 10 may be expressed in Arabic digits?

    • Jane says:

      Not all authorities agree on the rules. The Chicago Manual of Style (9.2) advises spelling out whole numbers from zero through one hundred. The use of numerals above 10 is not exclusive to APA. The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (12.4) states, “A figure is used for a single number of 10 or more with the exception of the first word of the sentence.”

      Grammarbook‘s Rule 1 likewise recommends spelling out single-digit whole numbers and using numerals for numbers greater than nine.

  40. Kristen says:

    What’s the rule with writing people’s height?

    For example, “He’s already 6 feet 1 inch tall.” Is that correct? If not, how would I do that properly?

    Thanks:)

    • Jane says:

      AP Stylebook advises using figures and spelling out inches, feet, etc. to indicate height. Therefore,”He’s already 6 feet 1 inch tall” is correct.

  41. Theresa says:

    I’m writing about my son’s “two month” checkup, “three month,” etc. Is it spelled out or numerical. Also, it it hyphenated? Thank you. Helpful site!

  42. Judy says:

    oops!

    what I meant was…Which is right?

    A man in his early fifty’s…or
    A man in his early fifties…

    Thanks!

  43. Kiri says:

    How would you write in a report that a child can skip count in twos, fives and tens, if it is abbreviated? 2′s or 2s

  44. RB says:

    But is it better to write “early fifties” or “early 50s?”

  45. Danielle says:

    Which one is correct: fifteen-year marriage or fifteen year marriage

    • Jane says:

      In my blog titled “Numbers as Adjectives” the rule says, “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.” Therefore, fifteen-year marriage would be correct.

  46. Emilee says:

    Hello,

    At work I have to spell out dollar amounts in professional documents, but we have a disagreement on which is the correct way.

    I believe to write it in check format is proper:
    “One thousand, seven hundred sixty-three and 42/100 dollars ($1,763.42)”

    But it is argued that :
    “One thousand, seven hundred sixty-three dollars and forty-two cents ($1,763.42)” is also correct.

    we always incude the numerical representation in parentheses for clarity. Is there a truely correct way? or is it just aesthetic?

    Thanks!

  47. Daphne says:

    When writing numbers as if you were counting, do you put a semicolon after each number? Example: One, one thousand; two, one thousand: three, one thousand and so on.

  48. Chris says:

    Hello Jane,

    First, thank you for having such a great online resource. I’ve found myself coming to your site often and just ordered your book off Amazon. I have come to you today with a couple of questions until your book arrives. I have 2 passages in my writing, in which I am questioning how I refer to a character’s age. They read as follow:

    Passage 1
    Cara, 12, sat motionless in her seat belt, her blonde hair washing over her lifeless face in the icy water. Lori, 7, was out of her seatbelt and pressed against the ceiling.

    Passage 2
    Marilyn’s eyes darted to 5-year-old Katelyn who was strapped into her car seat in the middle.

    Given that (12) is not a single digit, the rules seem to dictate that it needs to be spelled out, but I’m not sure since in the very next line I refer to another child at age (7), which follows a rule to use a numeral for a single digit. Are these correct the way I have then? Or do I need to spell out (12), (7) and (5). Also is the punctuation correct? Character name (comma) age (comma) rest of sentence.

    Thank you in advance for your skill and insight.
    Kind Regards,
    Chris

    • Jane says:

      Rule 2 of “Writing Numbers” states, “Be consistent within a category. For example, if you choose numerals because one of the numbers is greater than nine, use numerals for all numbers in that category. If you choose to spell out numbers because one of the numbers is a single digit, spell out all numbers in that category.
      Setting the characters’ ages off in commas is consistent with Rule 11 of “Commas” since giving the characters names sufficiently identify them. Good luck with your writing; sounds like you’re dealing with a tragic event.

  49. Chris says:

    Hi Jane,

    Silly note but fun. I went back to Amazon and found your book on Kindle so i canceled my purchase for the hard copy and ordered the Kindle version. Its great I’m paging through it on my PC version of Kindle. Thanks. I look forward to your response.

    Kind Regards,
    Chris

  50. Lee says:

    Does “up to age 13″ include 13?

    • Jane says:

      The phrase “up to” indicates a limit or boundary. Most likely it would only include age 13 if it said, “up to and including age 13.” It can, however, be ambiguous and open to interpretation, so it may be best to inquire specifically

  51. Alex says:

    Hi Jane,

    After reading through all your eye-opening responses to inquiries about “Writing Numbers”, I’m still left with a question which has been of much debate at my workplace, so I decided to submit it.
    Which is/are correct:
    “He’s willing to pay eleven five for the car”
    “He’s willing to pay eleven, five for the car”
    “He’s willing to pay 11 – 5 for the car”
    “He’s willing to pay 11, 5 for the car”

    I look forward to your insightful response. Thank you.

    This

    • Jane says:

      Uh, oh, looks like I’m under pressure to be insightful in my explanation.
      If you were writing this out formally, you would write either:
      “He’s willing to pay $11,500 for the car.” OR
      “He’s willing to pay eleven thousand, five hundred dollars for the car.”

      If we extend this methodology from our Rules for Writing Numbers to your informal, but commonly spoken, way of expressing the dollar figure, either of these two would be comparable:
      “He’s willing to pay eleven, five for the car.” OR
      “He’s willing to pay 11, 5 for the car.”

      However, this is such an informal verbal expression that there may not be any absolutely correct way to write it. “He’s willing to pay eleven five for the car” also captures it in a way that’s true to how it sounds when spoken. One thing for sure, you wouldn’t want to rely on the informally written rendition in an actual automobile purchase!

  52. jane hatch says:

    how do I write 4’6” in an essay? Is it “She was four-feet-six-inches tall or she was four feet and sic inches tall or what?

    • Jane says:

      The rule in our blog “Writing Numbers as Adjectives” says, “Generally, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea. When measurements are not acting as adjectives, hyphens are not needed.” Since four feet six inches is not in front of a noun, you do not need to hyphenate.

      She was four feet six inches tall. OR
      She was 4 feet 6 inches tall.

  53. Ms.Stone says:

    Which one is the correct way to write a monetary amount?

    Michelle, can you lend me $5 until tomorrow?

    Michelle, can you lend me $5.00 until tomorrow?

    Michelle, can you lend me five dollars until tomorrow?

    Thank-you

    • Jane says:

      The style manuals do not seem to agree on words vs. numbers in regard to monetary amounts. AP Stylebook recommends figures with the dollar sign and the Chicago Manual of Style says that references to money should be spelled out for whole numbers of one hundred or less. All of your examples are correct.The best strategy is to be consistent.

  54. Ronda says:

    Hi Jane –
    Working for a University of Medical students and we continue to have an ongoing discussion on the age and how to properly write it out. I have done so much research and feel even more confused, as most research shows both ways and says that it is one’s preference on how to do it. The easier to read is what most say…can you help?

    A 20 year-old student was examining…..

    A 20-year-old student was examining…..

    A twenty year-old student

    A twenty-year-old student

    Once you reply, is there any site or book that you can refer us to that really shows that one is proper and the other isn’t and that it’s not just a preference…?

    • Jane says:

      Our blog “Hyphens with Numbers” addresses part of your question. The rule states, “When you’re combining two or more words to form a compound adjective in front of a noun, put hyphens between these words.” Regarding whether to write out numbers or use numerals, Rule 1 in our Grammarbook “Writing Numbers” section says, “Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine.” Rule 2 states, “Be consistent within a category. For example, if you choose numerals because one of the numbers is greater than nine, use numerals for all numbers in that category. If you choose to spell out numbers because one of the numbers is a single digit, spell out all numbers in that category. If you have numbers in different categories, use numerals for one category and spell out the other.”

      Therefore, A 20-year-old student is correct.

      You are right that not all authorities agree. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style (9.2) says, “In nontechnical contexts, Chicago advises spelling out whole numbers from zero through one hundred and certain round multiples of those numbers.” On the other hand, AP Stylebook says for ages, “Always use figures.” Since you are in the medical field, you may also wish to consult the AMA Manual of Style.

  55. Randy says:

    I almost always include an “s” when I say “one years old”. For example, “Her baby is one years old.” My wife is an English teacher and always corrects me, “Her baby is one year old.” However my wife is not a native speaker like me (as I). Who´s right? Have I been using this term wrong my whole life? I said both ways are correct.

  56. Owen says:

    If I wanted to change this phrase “I went on a 25-month vacation,” by separating it into years and months, would I write “I went on a two-year and one-month vacation?”

    • Jane says:

      The rule in our “Numbers as Adjectives” blog states, “Generally, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea.” Based on this rule, you would write, “I went on a two-year-and-one-month vacation.” Since this is a bit awkward, you may want to revert to your original sentence, “I went on a 25-month vacation.”

  57. Toni says:

    …he continues to be the biggest HERO to his 4 children, Nina-age 15, Nadia-16, Raul III-age-21 and Saul, just 5 years old.

    What is the correct way to write the above sentence? It has the number of children (4) or (four), and their respective ages. Should their ages be hyphenated or not? Should the five year old be (5) or (five). I just don’t know where to begin.
    Also is it correct to write the ‘five year old’ or the ‘five years old?’

    • Jane says:

      First, let’s lay out the rules that apply to your situation.
      Rule 1 of Writing Numbers on our website states, “Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine.”

      Rule 2 states, “Be consistent within a category. For example, if you choose numerals because one of the numbers is greater than nine, use numerals for all numbers in that category . . .If you have numbers in different categories, use numerals for one category and spell out the other.”

      Rule 1 in the “Colons” section of our grammar rules says, “Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as namely, for example, or that is do not appear.” Also Rule 4 in the “Semicolons” section of GrammarBook’s rules states, “Use the semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.”

      Therefore:
      He continues to be the biggest hero to his four children: Nina, age 15; Nadia, 16; Raul III, age 21; and Saul, just 5 years old.

  58. veco says:

    which is correct? i graduated four-year-course or i graduated for years course?

    • Jane says:

      Neither of those sentences is grammatically correct. A college class is often referred to as a course and it would be highly unlikely to take four years to complete. You might say, “I graduated after a four-year program in engineering/history/biology/etc. at X University/College” or “I graduated after a four-year course of study in engineering/history/biology/etc. at X University/College.”

  59. cindy says:

    All Age Pinewood Derby or All Ages Pinewood Derby?

  60. Nancy says:

    My boss likes to say our people have 20+ years in the energy business. Should the + be a superscript?

    • Jane says:

      The use of a plus sign after a number to indicate more than is a very informal usage. I have never seen it used as a superscript. A more formal way to express this would be: Our people have over 20 years in the energy business. (It’s unclear from either expression whether this experience is collective or individual.)

  61. Anna says:

    What is the correct way to write the age range and use of hyphens in the following sentence where the purpose is to identify if a person is a parent/guardian of a child who is aged between thirteen and seventeen?
    Also, should the word “year” be pluralised?

    Are you a parent or a legal guardian of a 13-17 years old child?
    OR
    Are you a parent or a legal guardian of a 13-17-year-old child?

    • Jane says:

      Your sentence could benefit from some rewording because it has two different but similar punctuation marks in close quarters. The first one is an en dash, roughly the width of an n, and is a little longer than a hyphen. It is used for periods of time when you might otherwise use to. The second one is a hyphen, which is used between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea. The sentence looks a little confusing written this way: Are you a parent or a legal guardian of a 13—17-year-old child?
      I recommend rewording to:

      Are you a parent or legal guardian of a child 13—17 years old? or
      Are you a parent or legal guardian of a child 13 to 17 years old?

  62. Ilona says:

    Can we say : I`m nine and a half years old?

    • Jane says:

      Rule 4 in our “Writing Numbers” section says, “A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence.” Therefore, you can either write “I’m nine and one-half years old,” or “I’m 9 1/2 years old.” It is common in American spoken English to use the less formal, “I’m nine and a half years old,” but it should not be written that way in spite of Two And A Half Men.

  63. Jorge says:

    I recently was involved in an argument w/ couple co-workers with the correct
    usage of numbers in sentences.
    I was informing them what they were doing wasn’t grammatically correct,
    however even after reading the rules from the following:
    http://www.grammarbook.com/contact.asp
    I’m sure they will still insist that since there wasn’t a rule against it,
    it would be fine.

    Is the following grammatically correct?
    The two (2) satellites with the traveling wave tubes have been screened and
    tested?

    I was under the impression having the redundancy of the #2 after spelling it
    out was incorrect, please clarify?

    Thank you.

    v/r
    J. M

    • Jane says:

      Our blog “Writing Numbers as Words” asks the same question and provides a rule of thumb:

      Isn’t it unnecessary to have both numerals and words for the same number? For example: “We will need 220 (two hundred twenty) chairs.”

      Rule of Thumb: 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.

      Thus, you or your coworkers would need to decide whether your document meets these criteria for required accuracy and ease of reading or not.

  64. Scott says:

    Hi Jane,

    I have been unable to find anything concrete on how to hyphenate numbers over one hundred that also modify a noun.

    ex: one hundred thirty-one text messages
    or: one-hundred-thirty-one text messages

    I know that normally you would hyphenate the entire compound adjective, but I was not sure if this applied to numbers as well. What do you think?

    Thanks.

    • Jane says:

      Our blog “Numbers as Adjectives” has more information and examples on this topic. Only hyphenate between a number and a measurement unit taken together when they form a compound adjective such as a one-hundred-thirty-one-page report. When measurements are not acting as compound adjectives, hyphens are not needed. Your example is a simple number, therefore, the only hyphen required is in thirty-one.

      one hundred thirty-one text messages

  65. Kirk Bonner says:

    I couldn’t locate anything in your column about how to refer to time in a fiction novel. Here’s how I’d do it.

    It was about six thirty in the evening. NOTE: The reason I don’t hyphenate is that the sentence really means: It was about six hours thirty minutes in the evening. In this case “hours” and “minutes” are understood but not written.

    However I would write: She turned thirty-six today. This is because there’s nothing understood between the “thirty and the “six”. Of course “years” is understood after “thirty-six”.

    “What time is it?” Pete asked.
    John glanced down at his watch. “It’s exactly 6:36 pm.”
    “Thanks.”

    • Jane says:

      The blogs (columns) are often expansions on only individual rules contained on our website. Your questions are covered by the rules in the Writing Numbers section of GrammarBook.com. Rule 12 says, in part, “Normally, spell out the time of day in text even with half and quarter hours. Example: She gets up at four thirty before the baby wakes up.” Rule 13 says “Use numerals with the time of day when exact times are being emphasized or when using A.M. or P.M. Example: Monib’s flight leaves at 6:22 A.M.” Rule 15 says “Hyphenate all numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine.”

  66. Buffy B. says:

    Many years ago I worked for the Dallas Morning News. This was before I retired to teaching school in later years. I always understood that the word only could convey different things depending on its location in the sentence.

    “I only needed five copies of the test.” Since it preceeds the verb I take that to mean that none of the other teachers needed any copies of the test. I only or only I…..I alone needed the copies. However if it had read, I needed only five copies of the test, it would have referred, not to me, but to the number which I needed. Other teachers may have needed other numbers. We
    don’t know, but it is a possibility.

    • Jane says:

      You are correct that the placement of the word only in a sentence can convey different subtle or not so subtle meanings. In the case of Pop Quiz question No. 1, we don’t know whether that particular person was speaking just for himself or herself or not. Of course, for our purpose of determining whether to write out the numbers or use numerals, it doesn’t matter.

      I do think that the wording “I needed only five copies of the test, not fifty” more clearly conveys that is the number of tests that particular person needed. I am going to change the wording accordingly in the blog.

  67. Jessica says:

    Hello,
    Is this correct grammer? It’s in an ad for a dog:
    “I’m 1 year & 4 months old”
    or should it be “I’m 1 year 4 months old”
    Thank you so much!

  68. Bob says:

    Hi,
    How about fractions as referenced in recipes? Should I write:
    “Cut into 1/2-inch slices.” or,
    “Cut into 1/2 inch slices.”
    Thanks in advance,
    -B

    • Jane says:

      The rule in our blog Hyphens with Numbers states, “When you’re combining two or more words to form a compound adjective in front of a noun, put hyphens between these words.” Since the measurement is a compound adjective describing the noun slices, use a hyphen.

      Cut into 1/2-inch slices.

      NOTE: Although our Fractions, Decimals, and Money blog says, “Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them,” for recipes AP Stylebook says, “Always use figures.”

  69. Colleen says:

    On wedding invites the year is written out and includes the word “and”, for example Two Thousand and Twelve. This always annoys me when I see it because I don’t believe the “and” is correct. Am I right?

    • Jane says:

      In British English, the year is pronounced two thousand and twelve rather than the American English form two thousand twelve. Americans often consider British English more formal, therefore you will often see British spellings appear in invitations, especially wedding invitations.

  70. Tabitha says:

    I’ve been seeing two ways to write height across the board, which is correct according the Chicago Manual of Style? I have seen 5’4 and 5’4″.

    • Jane says:

      The Chicago Manual of Style’s abbreviation table 10.69 says, “In the following examples, note that the proper symbols for foot and inch are prime (′) and double prime (″), not the single (’) and double (”) quotation mark:
      LENGTH
      in. or ″ inch
      ft. or ′ foot
      Therefore, write 5′4″. In Word, find the prime and double prime marks using Insert, Symbol.

  71. Noor says:

    Dear Jane,
    When do we say each of these:
    11 year old
    11 years old
    11 year olds
    cause I have been reading articles and found these three representation of age and got confused.
    I really appreciate your time and effort

    • Jane says:

      Our Rule 1 of Writing Numbers states, “Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine.” The phrase eleven-year-old or eleven-year-olds can be used as a compound adjective to describe a noun. Our Blog Hyphens with numbers says, “When you’re combining two or more words to form a compound adjective in front of a noun, put hyphens between these words.”

      Examples:
      That is an eleven-year-old table.
      The spelling bee winner was an eleven-year-old.

      The phrase eleven-year-olds refers to more than one person who is eleven years of age.
      Example:
      The winner was a team of eleven-year-olds.

      The phrase eleven years old is used to describe a person, animal, or thing that is eleven years old.
      Examples:
      Our house is eleven years old.
      Mark’s son is eleven years old.

  72. Lisa says:

    Hi Jane,

    Great resource. As an editor I pop by here from time to time, rather than pore over my CMOS tome. I thought it would be good to point out, as I did not see it mentioned here, that CMOS recommends that ALL numbers be written out in dialogue or at the start of a sentence. For example: He was born in 1958. But: Nineteen fifty-eight was the year he was born. Or: John said, “He was born in nineteen fifty-eight.”

    Thanks for the great site.

  73. Sunny says:

    Hi Jane ! Please solve this sentence !

    The 1st to 4th February are our Father King funeral, and I am on leave on 5th February 2013.

    Should we use plural or singular verb after the duration with date.

    • Jane says:

      Our rule of Dashes says, “An en dash, roughly the width of an n, is a little longer than a hyphen. It is used for periods of time when you might otherwise use to…To form an en dash with most PCs, type the first number or word, then hold down the ALT key while typing 0150 on the numerical pad on the right side of your keyboard. Then type the second number or word.” Also, our Rule 8 of Writing Numbers states, “The following examples apply when using dates:
      Examples:
      The meeting is scheduled for June 30.
      The meeting is scheduled for the 30th of June.”

      Therefore, if I understand your intention correctly, I recommend rewording to the following:

      February 1–4 are the dates for Father King’s funeral and I am on leave on February 5, 2013.

  74. Stephanie says:

    Is it possible to take a shortcut when writing ages in terms of years and months old? For instance, could a boy who was eleven-years and four-months old be written as 11-4 or 11:4 or 11;4?

    I’ve seen it in all forms in the context of special education assessment reports where a number of developmental milestones were met at different ages and listed.

    Thanks.

    • Jane says:

      In formal English, I know of no shorthand way of expressing this. You may write either “a boy who was eleven years and four months old” or “a boy who was 11 years and 4 months old.” Since the age is not being used as an adjective (11-year-old boy), there are no hyphens. However, sometimes certain occupations, academic disciplines, etc. adopt specific terms that are accepted or understood by practitioners within that discipline.

  75. Arna says:

    This is probably more about prepositions than numbers per se. When writing out an age range how does one describe a group that includes people who are 35≤ age ≤50?

    • Jane says:

      You could write “people 35-50 years old.” Another option is “35- to 50-year-olds.” It is called a suspended hyphen. Or, you could rewrite the sentence in non-adjectival form as people ranging in age from 35 to 50 years old.

  76. Roya says:

    Hi there
    I would like to ask you a question!
    Could you please tell me what the correct form of this sentence is?!
    In this company, the amount of equity share capital in five years is equal to 7.18 and the highest amount of fixed assets, total assets are presented in 2010-11.

    Thank you

    • Jane says:

      Sorry, I am not versed in financial terminology, and therefore do not feel qualified to edit your sentence. The phrase total assets are presented in 2010-11 makes no sense to me at all.

  77. dee says:

    how about a series of thousands with decimal places? ex.
    Danny earned 1,987.09, 8,968.09, 8,937.78 and 7,937.21. is this right?

    • Jane says:

      Our Rule 4 of Semicolons says, “Use the semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.” Since your series contains commas, and assuming you are referring to money, write “Danny earned $1,987.09; $8,968.09; $8,937.78; and $7,937.21.”

  78. Caroline says:

    Hi. I am learning a lot from you. I would like to ask you what is the best way of writing “I feel like I’m awake 24/7 the past 7 or 8 months now?” Should I write the numerical fraction as 24/7 and spell out 7 or 8, i.e.,

    “24/7 the past seven or eight months now” or
    “24/7 the past 7 or 8 months now”

    Pls let me know. Thanks.

    • Jane says:

      Since “24/7″ is a common expression it should be written as numerals. Our Rule 1 of Writing Numbers says, “Spell out single-digit whole numbers. Use numerals for numbers greater than nine.” Also, our Rule 16 says, “Write out a number if it begins a sentence.” Therefore, write “24/7 the past seven or eight months now,” but avoid starting your sentence with “24/7.”

  79. J says:

    Thank you for your awesome work!

    How do I hyphenate “163-year-old building” if I write out the numerals?

    One-hundred-sixty-three-year-old building seems excessive.

    • Jane says:

      You might want to use numerals for numbers over 100 unless you are writing the first word or words in a sentence (and “163-year-old building” is not likely to start a sentence). Writing “163-year-old building” should be fine.

  80. Chracol says:

    When using composite adjectives such as the following examples is the ‘s’ required or not? I think not.

    A two years old child
    A ten minutes TV program
    A two hours lesson with a native-tongue teacher
    A two hundred and fifty meters high building
    A fifteen hundred miles river
    A fifty-five tonnes truck

    • Jane says:

      Do not use an s in these examples. Also, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea. There are varying philosophies regarding writing numbers or using numerals. Find a formula that works for you, and be consistent. Many book publishers would recommend:

      a two-year-old child
      a ten-minute TV program
      a two-hour lesson with a native-tongue teacher
      a 250-meter-high building
      a 1,500-mile-long river
      a 55-ton truck

  81. W. Royal Stokes says:

    9/9/13

    Within a character’s speech in a novel, should one say “hundred and fifty-dollar bills” or “hundred- and fifty-dollar bills”?

    It’s that hanging hyphen in the latter example that bothers me. But without it, is there ambiguity?

    Thanks.

  82. W. Royal Stokes says:

    Clarification: Full sentence is :
    “He had almost fifty thou on him, mostly in hundred and fifty-dollar bills.”

  83. C Day says:

    Hi Jane,
    How would you handle this sentence in a nonfiction book, This is not a technical book or an informational book but rather a life story. Should the weight and height be spelled out or left as numerals?

    This breed is a rather small dog, weighing between 35 to 40 pounds with a height of 17 to 20 inches.

    Should this read “thirty-five to forty pounds with a height of seventeen to twenty inches”?

    Thank you for your time and assistance.

  84. Adriana says:

    When using the greater than equal than symbol such as the example below should I keep the symbol followed by the 7 or should it all be spelled out or a combination of the two – symbol plus word seven?

    Frequent night time bottle-feeding with milk is associated with, but not consistently implicated in, early childhood caries (ECC). Breastfeeding > 7 times daily after 12 months of age is associated with increased risk for ECC.

    • Jane says:

      Spelling out numbers vs. using figures is largely a matter of writers’ preference. The most important thing is to be consistent. Symbols may be used in lieu of words but it may be more clear for the reader to understand if it is written out.

  85. Trace says:

    Some souces indicate that when two numbers are adjacent, spell one out to avoid confusion: He bought three-hundred 3.6 GHz computers.
    Would that rule also apply to the 2 in this sentence: On June 14, 2011, 2 days before the event, he filed his application.

    • Jane says:

      Spelling out numbers vs. using figures is largely a matter of writers’ preference and authorities have different approaches and rules. The writer could change the adjacent number if he or she thinks there is cause for misreading the sentence. It is not usual in formal writing to use a numeral instead of “two days before the event.”

  86. Gaurav says:

    Hi, jane
    I have problems with sentences like i am 20 years old and i am a 20 year old , are both of these correct, if the first one is correct then is it used in american english only ? or is it also used in the british english.

    • Jane says:

      Both sentences are used in both American and British English. In the sentence “I am a 20-year-old,” the phrase 20-year-old should be hyphenated.

  87. Amanda says:

    Our graphic artist tells us that we should use “.75 yards” in our price book instead of “.75 yard”. Is this correct? At what point does “yard” become plural? I say it is when the yardage is greater than 1, but she disagrees.

  88. Gaurav says:

    Hello jane,
    Sorry for bothering you again, I have another question, which one of these sentences is correct? : I have no pens or I don’t have any pens. I have always used the second one but I have also heard people say I have no pens, as far as I am able to understand the sentence ; I have no pens should be incorrect as first we are giving affirmation to the second person by saying ‘I have’ then suddenly we add ‘no’ pens to the sentence. Please tell me which one is correct and if both are correct then please help me in understanding the logic behind the first one.

    • Jane says:

      Both sentences are correct. They are commonly accepted constructions. To really upset your sense of logic, do an internet search on the old American song “Yes! We Have No Bananas.”

  89. Tammy says:

    Hi! I create holiday cards for families and they often like to list the children’s ages after their names. Would this be correct:
    Kate (5), Clare (3), Charles (3-months)

    I specifically want to know about the 3-months. Should it be 3 months or three months or three-months? Usually space is limited.

    Thank you!

    • Jane says:

      There should not be a hyphen in 3 months. To be consistent, either spell out or use numerals for all ages, even in the case of days, weeks, and months.

  90. Sam says:

    Your a lot of help. I’ve learn so much from you and this site. However, I still have a lot of other questions that I have not been about to find the answer to. So here it goes…

    Is this correct:
    “I’m a forty-five-year-old male,”?

    And if I write out the age, for this person, and later down the story, a few paragraphes, I write another person’s age, do I have to also write it the same manner of style that I choise to write the first person’s age?

    Also, what if later downt the story I write it this way:
    “I have three kids, my son, David, 16, my daughter, Amy,12, and my youngest child, John, 5.

    Do I word out their ages too, since I wrote the first person’s age out first? Also, did I write that sentense out correctly (I already know I have to pick either writing the word or writing in numeral form, which I did)?

    Is it: I’m 6 feet, 6-feet, 6 ft, 6-ft, 6′, six feet, or six-feet tall?

    I think that’s all for now. :p
    Thanks.

    • Jane says:

      “I’m a forty-five-year-old male” is correct. Spelling out numbers vs. using figures is largely a matter of writers’ preference. Consistency is important, however, since you mention the word “story,” we assume you are writing a work of fiction. In writing a work of fiction, you do not necessarily need to write every person’s age in the same manner throughout the entire story. Aurthors of fiction do not always follow strict grammar rules.

      Regarding your sentence about the children, the name David is an appositive since it is essential to the noun son because you have more than one son. Therefore, no comma is used. Assuming you only have one daughter, the commas surrounding Amy are correct.

      Use a colon to introduce a series of items. Also one of our rules of semicolons states, “Use the semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.” Therefore, you could write:
      I have three kids: my son David, 16; my daughter, Amy,12; and my youngest child, John, 5. OR
      I have three kids: my son David, sixteen; my daughter, Amy, twelve; and my youngest child, John, five.

      “I’m six feet tall” or “I’m 6 feet tall” are both correct.

  91. Karen Fast says:

    Is this written correctly?
    John just paid $33 thousand for his new car.

    • Jane says:

      We recommend using either numerals or spelled out numbers and being consistent.
      John just paid $33,000 for his new car. OR
      John just paid thirty-three thousand dollars for his new car.
      (However, when the number is in the millions, many writers write “$5 million” or “33 million miles from Earth.”)

  92. Lucy says:

    Which version is correct for ranges of age? This is for medical writing.

    The study population ranged from 2 to 65 years of age.
    The study population ranged from two to 65 years of age.

    • Jane says:

      Spelling out numbers vs. using figures is a matter of preference. The important thing is to be consistent.
      The study population ranged from 2 to 65 years of age. OR
      The study population ranged from two to sixty-five years of age.

  93. Denise says:

    I have a listing of items in quotations. Is the proper format putting the comma before or after the second quotation mark, such as:

    “member 1,” “member 2,” and “member 3″ OR
    “member 1″, “member 2″, and “member 3″

    I have a document I am revising that has it both ways and it is confusing me. Now I am second guessing what I’ve always done.

  94. Angela says:

    Hi there,
    How do I write ’1700 dollars’ in a legal transcript?
    Which – if any – of these are correct?
    Seventeen hundred dollars
    Seventeen-hundred dollars
    17 hundred dollars
    1700 dollars
    $1700
    The very brief instructions state that numbers, in general, over 10 should be written as numerals, not words, so so far I have put it as ’17 hundred dollars’ but I don’t know…this does not look quite right?
    Thanks in advance!
    Angela

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