There are many rules in English when it comes to how numbers should be written and there is also a lot of disagreement about the correct way to write numbers. This can be confusing, especially for non-native English speakers.
So, in order to simplify matters, here are a few rules to follow to help you be consistent in your writing:
You should spell out single-digit whole numbers. These are numbers below 10 (ten):
“I want six apples”, “He needs nine second-class stamps”.
You need to use numerals for numbers greater than nine:
“She wants 11 copies of the report”, “The fisherman caught 10 fish”.
Please note that in academic writing, it is sometimes the case that number above ten are written in numerals. You also need to spell out all numbers, regardless of the digits, if that number begins the sentence:
“Twenty soldiers marched to the front”, “Seventy-two athletes ran in the marathon.”
Note also that in some specific texts, such as scientific papers, only numerals are used – this is for extra clarity – where numbers present vital information and statistics:
79.8 %, 55 cm, 87 kg.
It is also important to be consistent with numbers with regards to the category you are describing. If you decide to use numerals because one of the numbers is above nine, then you must use numerals for all the numbers in that category in your document. This also goes for spelling out numbers if one of the numbers is nine or below – you need to spell out all the numbers in your text:
“He bought 11 apples and 5 oranges”, “She has three cats and ten rabbits as pets”. The categories here are fruit and animals.
It is not correct to write: “She bought seven cakes and 12 buns” or “He reads 20 books a month but only 5 magazines”.
If your numbers relate to various categories, you can spell out numbers in one category and use numerals in the other:
“Due to the economic crisis, the factory must make 250 employees redundant and close three premises”. Here, the employees are described in figures whereas the premises are described with words.
“I am studying 10 subjects but will take only eight exams this year”, “I have two eyes, but 10 fingers”.
As you can see, consistency is the key. It is important to be consistent in your writing as it more professional as well as making your text easier to read.
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