Numerals or Words

Many writers feel confused about when to spell numbers out versus simply using numerals. Numbers are used rarely or never in many subjects that writers cover. Luckily, a few basic rules sum up most situations that tend to challenge writers most often. Here is a quick list of these rules, along with several examples:

Rule 1: Use words for numbers up to nine. After number nine, use numerals.

    • He has one minute left.
    • Please give me all nine reports today.
    • He has 10 new team members.

Rule 2: For ordinal numbers like first and second, follow the same rule: Use words up to ninth. After ninth, use numerals.

    • The first second has passed.
    • This is the ninth report you have given me today.
    • You are the 10th new team member.

Rule 3: When a number begins a sentence, use a word.

    • Forty-three cars are parked in the garage today.
    • Second graders love the summer camp sponsored by our workplace.

Rule 4: For page numbers, dates, ages, money, percentages, and measurements, use numerals.

    • My son is 7 years old.
    • In our department, over 5 percent of new hires have three to five years of experience.

For most writers, these rules will cover the majority of situations that cause confusion in writing. Like in all areas, practice makes perfect. Quiz yourself or reread these rules a few times to help commit them to memory!