Numbers do not only show up in math assignments, but also in everyday writing. Like most things in the English language, there are rules for writing numbers. Yes, imagine that! There are certain numbers that we spell out in letters, while there are others that we only write in numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.). You have probably come across more than your fair share of ‘Top 10’ lists. Why is it not ‘Top Ten’ list? Keep reading to find out.
Please note that there are some exceptions to the rules outlined below. As with other grammar rules, rules for writing numbers change according to certain style guides (i.e. Chicago Manual of Style, AP, MLA, etc.). However, here are some general rules for spelling out numbers.
Correct: She has four brothers aged 5, 7 12, and 15.
Incorrect: She has four brothers aged seven, nine, 12, and 15.
Correct: The play is on March 23, 2010.
Incorrect: April 1st, 2001.
The following are special cases and are often written in multiple ways.
We usually spell out the time when it is followed by o'clock or when a.m. or p.m. is not mentioned. However, we use numerals when we need to emphasize the exact time and when using A.M. and P.M.
Correct: We have to get up at six o'clock to be on time for school.
Correct: She gets home around eight in the evening.
Incorrect: We have to get up at 6 o'clock to be on time for school.
Examples: a.m., p.m.
We usually spell out noon and midnight instead of writing 12:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m.
We came home around midnight and slept until noon the next day.
If there are only a few words, we often spell out.
For larger numbers we write in numeral form ($5, 385, 673)
When in doubt about whether to spell out or write numbers, it is best to consult a style guide.
For a further overview of how to write numbers, you can check out the following sites: