Numbers or Numerals: How Do You Use Them In Your Writing?

This post was written by Internet Marketing John on October 13, 2009
Posted Under: Article Marketing Information

Should you use numbers or numerals, when creating content for your ezines, websites, or blog posts?

It may seem like common sense, however, when you stop to think about it, when do you use digits versus letters in your content writing?

Is it fourteen, or 14?  7, or seven?

What’s the difference between numbers or numerals?

A numeral, is any symbol that is used to express a number in written form; while a number, is an abstract concept.

Four, IV, and 4, all represent the concept of ‘fourness’.

Numbers or numerals, really do matter in your writing, when you’re trying to adequately describe a concept.

Here are some guidelines you may find useful the next time you write an article with a lot of numbers.

  • Always spell out Small numbers.

One rule that remains relatively constant, is to spell out whole numbers less than ten.

Formal writing dictates that small numbers should always be spelled out.

As far as the rest of the numbers are concerned, there really are no standardized rules.

Some writers believe that one word numbers should always be written out.    Such as nine, or fifty.

Two word numbers, such as 27, should be expressed as a numeral, or actual number.

  • Commas.

Commas are used as a numerical thousands separator in order to make large numbers easier to read.

If you’re writing an article about the average distance to the sun from the earth; you would state the distance as 92,955,887.6 miles away, NOT 92955887.6 miles.

  • Use of the decimal.

To further confuse you, Europeans separate groups of three digits with a space, and use commas or periods as decimal places.  A European would write $ 678 987 345,90.  An American would write the same number as $678,987,345.90.

Got it yet?

  • Never begin your sentences with a numeral.

168 tons of coal were purchased last month.
Should read; Last month 168 tons of coal were purchased.

  • Spell out rounded, or estimated numbers.

Generally when you are writing a number over one million; write it as a numeral plus the word.

“The million man march”, is correct as written.

“We lost about $300,000,000 last year” should properly read “We lost about $300 million last year”.

  • Centuries or decades.

Always spell out decades, or centuries when writing content.  It is improper to use 18th century; it should be correctly written as, eighteenth century.

  • Percentages

In everyday communications, it is acceptable to digits with percentages.   (30% of the population voted for McCain)

If you’re writing content for cooking, and are writing recipes, it is acceptable to use numerical digits.  (3 cups sugar, 1 tsp corn starch, etc.)

Formal writing dictates that you spell out percentages, such as; 30 percent of the population voted for McCain, or, 30 percent of the population voted for McCain.

  • When writing numbers or numerals, be consistent.

When you write sentences with numbers, strive for consistency.

Write “the class consisted of 12 beginners and 22 advanced ….”, don’t write “the class consisted of twelve beginners and 22 advanced ….”.

Remember that numbers or numerals, just like properly written words, must be written clearly to convey the intended message.

Reader Comments

Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

Written By Jamie Holts on October 14th, 2009 @ 12:53 am

Fantastic writing!! Will need a decent amount of time to think over the points..

Written By Petronila Hauskins on November 30th, 2010 @ 5:38 am

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