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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Writing Numbers: Part I


For the next three weeks, we'll be discussing the rules for writing numbers. The following rules come from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation website, courtesy of Jane Straus.¹ You can view additional tips, read Jane's blog, or purchase her book at the following website: http://www.grammarbook.com. Jane's site also includes tons of free quizzes so you can test your knowledge. If you can't get enough grammar quizzes, you're in luck. Jane just launched a subscription area containing over 100 interactive quizzes!

Rules for Writing Numbers: Part I
by Jane Straus

Rule 1                The numbers one through nine should be spelled out; use figures for numbers 10 and above.


I want five copies.



I want 10 copies.

Rule 2 With a group of related numbers in a sentence, where one number is 10 or above, write the numbers all in figures. Use words if all related numbers are below 10.
  Correct I asked for 5 pencils, not 50.
  Incorrect I asked for five pencils, not 50.
  Correct My 10 cats fought with their 2 cats.
    My nine cats fought with their two cats.
Rule 3 If the numbers are unrelated, then you may use both figures and words. Again, one through nine should be spelled out.
  Examples I asked for 30 pencils for my five employees.
    My nine cavities are exceeded in number by my 14 teeth.
    I have 10 toes but only one nose.
Rule 4 Always spell out simple fractions and use hyphens with them.
  Examples One-half of the pies have been eaten.
    A two-thirds majority is required for that bill to pass in Congress.
Rule 5 A mixed fraction can be expressed in figures unless it is the first word of a sentence.
  Examples We expect a 5 1/2 percent wage increase.
    Five and one-half percent was the maximum allowable interest.
Rule 6 The simplest way to express large numbers is best. Be careful to be consistent within a sentence.
  Correct You can earn from one million to five million dollars.
  Incorrect You can earn from one million to $5,000,000.
  Correct You can earn from $500 to $5,000,000.
  Incorrect You can earn from $500 to $5 million.
  Correct You can earn from five hundred to five million dollars.
  Incorrect You can earn from $500 to five million dollars.


Click here to read Part II.


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1.  Straus, Jane. "Rules for Writing Numbers." The Blue Book of Grammar
     and Punctuation
. http://www.grammarbook.com/numbers/numbers.asp.
     Published with permission.