Writing in English is confusing enough, but what do you do when you want to talk about numbers in a report, press release or even on the English version of your company’s website? Do you write the actual number or write the number in words? There are a couple of rules, but the main thing is to remain stylistically consistent throughout. Here are some tips along with examples:
Write out numbers smaller than ten
- I’m taking three days of holiday next week.
- The report I’m reading is 311 pages long.
Hyphenate the numbers twenty-one to ninety-nine
- We hired fifty-three people in the last fiscal year.
Use the numeral if discussing measurement, time or proportion
- Our next meeting starts in 15 minutes.
- His plane should land around 7:30 tomorrow morning.
- Our factory is 12 km from the main office.
When discussing precise numbers, do not spell them out
- The average score on the Azubi’s exams was 88.2.
Use a hyphen if the number and unit of measurement describe a noun
- A three-meter section of piping needed to be replaced.
You might have to use both numbers and words when the numbers are consecutive
- Our incoming class of Azubis includes 14 twenty-year-old men.
Use numerals for years and dates
- Our company was founded in 1883.
- Our next convention is on 5 May 2016.
Try to avoid starting sentences with numbers, but if you do, spell them out, unless it’s a year
- Seven hundred and fifty-liters of paint were delivered to the wrong address.
Numerals are also best when talking about sums of money
- We had over €3.4 million in sales last quarter.
- The cost was €1.20 per unit.
Some other stylistic points are writing noon instead of 12 pm in order to avoid confusion and to use numerals for fractions (unless they start a sentence). What difficulties have you run into when writing numbers? Let us know in the comments section below.