Style and context matter when you're using numbers in a sentence.
OK, here's a final rule that's pretty straightforward. If you're writing dialogue, for example quoting someone in a magazine article or writing a conversation in fiction, spell out all the numbers. Of course, even here The Chicago Manual of Style notes that you should use numerals "if [words] begin to look silly." But the idea is that you should lean toward using words in dialogue.
There is so much more to say about numbers that I'm going to make this a two-part series. Next week I'll cover rules about writing percents, decimals, and numbers over a million.
Web Bonus: What Is a Numeral?
Numeral can be used to refer to any symbol representing a number, including a word. I am using it in this episode to refer to Arabic numerals (e.g., 1, 2, 3).
References Used for This Episode
Aaron, J. The Little, Brown Essential Handbook. New York: Pearson Education, 2006, p. 101.
Garner, B. Garner's Modern American Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 560.
Goldstein, N., ed. The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. Reading: Perseus Books, 1998, p. 144-45.
Lutz, G. and Stevenson, D. Grammar Desk Reference. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2005, p.318.
"Numbers," Chicago Style Q&A. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (accessed March 25, 2008).
"Numbers," The Chicago Manual of Style, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006, section 9. (accessed March 25, 2008).
Strumpf, M. and Douglas, A. The Grammar Bible. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2004, p. 349.
The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005, p. 324-26.
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