When writing numbers, it is sometimes tricky to figure out if you need to write 23 or twenty-three. I have compiled some rules for you that apply to almost all of the styles.
The General Rules
Be consistent with your style. Whether you write 1800’s or 1800s, pick one and stick with it. See the rules for the style guide in which you are following.
Never begin a sentence with a numeral, spell it out.
8 criminals escaped during the prison transfer. Incorrect.
Eight criminals escaped during the prison transfer. Correct.
Though, it is often better to rephrase the sentence and not begin with a number.
Spell out centuries and decades (unless you use the entire year).
Prohibition during the 20’s strengthened organized crime. Incorrect.
The flappers of the Twenties were scandalous! Correct.
The eighteenth century was a time of change. Correct.
Spell out small numbers.
One monkey fell off the bed, leaving six uninjured monkeys. Correct.
Hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
Twenty-two and fifty-one
Don’t mix numeral styles in a sentence. (Yes, this may mean breaking another rule, but it is better to have that consistency thing we talked about earlier).
I walk one mile a day 14 times a month. Incorrect.
I walk one mile a day fourteen times a month. Correct.
If you have numbers next to one another, spell one out for clarity. The talent show had 8 8-year-olds perform during the assembly. Incorrect. The talent show had 8 eight-year-olds perform during the assembly. Correct.
Use numerals for figures. 1.5 gallons or 9.2 liters
Samples using the above rules
The plant grew five inches in a week.
The company had to pay five million dollars in the settlement.
The family lives at 808 Eight Street in a charming white house.
The actress earned eight million dollars for her sixth film.
Twenty-eight days after the accident, her cast was removed.
John J. Loud patented ballpoint pen on October 30, 1888. -OR- John J. Loud patented ballpoint pen on 30 October 1888.
Notes on MLA for my darling students:
Numbers zero through nine should be spelled out.
The numeral for 10 and above may be substituted.
John J. Loud patented ballpoint pen on Oct. 30, 1888. (You may abbreviate the names of months that are less than four letters)
Oh, the drama! Oh, the debate! My answer on the subject? It depends. The publishing world is trending towards a single space after periods, yet not all of the academic world is following suit. See below for specifics.
For the Publishing World
The large publishing houses in the United States are using the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). If you are planning to submit a manuscript (or publish one and look more professional) this is the way to go.
“The view at CMOS is that there is no reason for two spaces after a period in published work…it is inefficient, requiring an extra keystroke for every sentence… So, in our efficient, modern world, I think there is no room for two spaces after a period.” More CMOS FAQs here.
I was trained to use two spaces after periods, but am now retraining myself to use a single space to follow current publishing trends. You can look up other CMOS specifications on the Purdue Owl, as well as, on the CMOS site.
Last night a received an avalanche of emails from my beloved students trying to format their papers. Now, some of this is because they have given themselves “permission to forget” between papers, but that is another issue. So here is my quick reference, for you and my lovlies:
Font, Font Size, Spacing, and the dreaded Widow/Orphan Control