1. Souliepantaloons
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    Souliepantaloons New Member

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    I think this belongs here. Question about numbers!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Souliepantaloons, Jan 28, 2011.

    When my character is speaking I know that I should type out certain numbers but not other numbers in words.

    Specifically: Years

    "It was back in 2013," Jon said.
    OR
    "It was back in twenty-thirteen/two-thousand thirteen/etc," Jon said

    I dislike the second because it may force the reader to read it in an uncomfortable way for them (I can say it either way but it could easily interrupt the flow of reading and sometimes that's more important than showing HOW your character would say the year/thing.)

    Which is correct though?

    Thanks in advance for further information!
     
  2. Leah Woods
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    Leah Woods Active Member

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    As far as I know, I think the first example is right. That's at least, how we do in our classes :)
     
  3. Eldritch
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    Eldritch Member

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    I've seen it done both ways, but usually the first.
     
  4. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    It's fine to use the numeral (first example). You would only spell it out if it came at the beginning of a sentence (ie: Twenty thirteen was when it was back.).
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but in dialog, it has to be spelled out, since we speak in words, not numerals...
     
  6. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    That applies to years, too? I understand the need for spelling out when dealing with regular numerals in dialogue, but when spelling out years, especially with how complex years can become, it has the real possibility to confuse the reader. There is a real difference between seeing 12,415 BC and twelve-thousand four-hundred fifteen BC. I would think the rule could be bent for this, regardless of whether it falls in dialogue or not, for the reasons of clarity alone. However, I've been unsuccessful in finding it stating one way or the other in the Chicago Manual of Style.
     
  7. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Spelling it out is necessary to convey how the character spoke it. If it's not important, it might just be distracting. On the other hand, it might be critical, e.g. the techie using "zero" when the sports people all use "oh".
     
  8. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    "I thoroughly enjoyed Chapter Sixteen."

    "I was born in 1980."

    "What are you, a thirty-two? Thirty-three? You're pretty slim looking."

    "How many zeros does one million have?"
     
  9. Souliepantaloons
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    Souliepantaloons New Member

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    o_O Complicated answers.

    *simply avoids using the year and references it by 'four years back' and so on.* :D

    Problem solved!
     
  10. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    "It was back in 2013," Jon said.

    The above is correct. Sorry for the ambiguity!
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the problem is that it doesn't tell us how the person said it, as spacer notes above...

    jon #1:
    "It was back in two thousand thirteen," Jon said.

    jon #2:
    "It was back in twenty thirteen," Jon said.

    jon #3:
    "It was back in two oh one three," Jon said.

    jon #4:
    "It was back in two zero one three," Jon said.
     
  12. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    This is true, but the chances of the pronunciation being relevant to the story are slim. And if it is relevant, spell it out by all means. Both are right; I find "2013" to be a lot less cumbersome, though.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's not a question of 'pronunciation' unless an accent needs to be shown, but only of what words are being spoken...
     
  14. impure
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    impure Member

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    http://www.word-mart.com/html/number_and_numeral_writing_tip.html

    So, you'd use numbers unless you have a single number like 'five'.
     
  15. Jezzum
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    Jezzum New Member

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    Hi sorry for hijacking the thread, I thought it might be better than starting a new topic on the same subject, I am having a similar problem.

    I am essentially describing a history of my fantasy world, worded as though written by an author in the story:

    "The Knowing is the creation of Earthen, this happened around 100,000 years before year one, when our calendar was established. Before the Knowing, there was nothing but darkness. "

    I am not sure whether to use numerals or write one hundred thousand?
    Also with "year one" would it be proper to use a capital letter as in "Year One" each time it is used?

    Thankyou!
     
  16. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Not really. You can if you want, but it can get silly:

    "I was one of tree boys and had fife sisters, the last un born in nine-teen ot et!"

    That kind of thing had an industry term: obnoxious.

    Okay, I made that up, be be very careful making numbers into dialectic style, as it can just get confusing.
     
  17. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    It is pronunciation, though. 2013 would be consider standard, basic, straightforward, English pronunciation however the person chooses to read that number.

    Basically, who cares, unless your character is going to deviate from the standards. Like a robot character may say, "I was created in 2-0-1-3." And mud eater from the Mississippi might say, "I was born in twunny-thirdeen."

    But if it doesn't matter, all the advice I've seen, read and been told is that years can just stay years.

    Now, every time I've put an actual number in prose, I had it corrected... even when my character was a bit screwy and thought the actual numbers as he frantically counted cookie boxes in the grocery store. But, even then, was told to stop being cute (though I think I kept that one in).

    Years though seem to have different rules, and nobody has ever cared.
     
  18. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Use Roman numerals. Actually, Unicode U+2188 'ↈ' will show it as one character.
     
  19. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I write numbers in words, except for years.(which in my world, year is not really specified.)
    It is much faster to read 2011, then to read twenty-eleven, or two thousand eleven. I also think the numbers are easier to remember, for recall.

    Now what year was this?
    Oh yes, 2011. vs two thousand...?.or twenty...?

    You picture the 4 numbers easier then the words. 4 numbers versus 14 or 17 letters.

    I don't know which is right, but I know which is easier to remember.

    MS Word allows both and doesn't highlight as a mistake. (word gives me alot of pretty colors in my writing, many of which aren't mistakes, the program just isn't geared towards Fantasy.)
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep reading the page you referenced:
    - Numbers in dialogue

    When writing numbers in a dialogue, spell them out. For example:

    “There were about 20 people at the party”, he said. (Wrong)
    “There were about twenty people at the party”, he said. (Correct)
    No exceptions for single numbers.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... as i said before, no one speaks in numerals, only words...
     
  22. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Well, to be fair, no one speaks in words. We speak in sounds. Words are just there to give a way of writing the sounds down that we make. A number is an equally valid way of representing what has been said.
     
  23. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    To be technical, a numeral is a symbol (ie: 9 is the symbol for nine). We can speak in numbers, but not in numerals or symbols.
     
  24. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I follow these rules too, but I know mammamaia is an authoritative reference.

    My overarching rule is that my writing should take the least possible energy from the reader. On this principle, a year or a large number (unless it is round) would best be written in numerals as that is immediately clear.

    "Back in 1992 he had a long beard," John said.

    "He has to pay all the damage, which sums up to $234,567.89," the owner yelled. Try that in words -- not.

    So I beg to differ, for a change.
     
  25. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    True true, but it doesn't change my point that you could use a numeral in a text to represent the sound you would've made had you been able to say it in person.
     

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