1. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England

    Numbers

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Trilby, Jun 19, 2011.

    For a chapter in a novel.
    Help with this line please:

    A-There were a dozen or so 12 to 15 years old boys...

    B-There were a dozen or so twelve to fifteen years old boys...

    I know we are meant to write out numbers - it is the word dozen in there that's got me flummoxed. So do I spell out both sets of numbers.
     
  2. Gigi_GNR
    Offline

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    12,143
    Likes Received:
    250
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I would spell out both sets -- it looks better than the numerals.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. T.N.Korgan
    Offline

    T.N.Korgan New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Texas
    I think since you used dozen before hand instead of "twelve or so" it reads perfectly fine with the written out numbers.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    Thanks, Gigi and T.N.K - Will do.
     
  5. darkhaloangel
    Offline

    darkhaloangel Active Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Messages:
    190
    Likes Received:
    5
    Not the only one having trouble with the number thing. At the moment I'm stuck on Platform 3.

    Now is that Platform 3 - like it's written on the sign or platform three if someone is saying it outloud? I've got everything in the number stage at the moment.

    Also times - how do you keep that consitant. 11:11 or eleven, eleven? When you are also writing quarter past five. Because when you read 17:15 out loud it has a totally different effect? So is consistency best regardless of flow? I don't know. Other authors freely mix them, but it still bothers me a bit!

    Anyway I've read some tutorials and it says if the number begins a sentence, write it out in full, also write the numbers out of they are less than 10, but more than 10 and you can write the numerals.

    However, keep is consistent; there are nine pupils and seven teachers and they went into room 10.

    Apparently that's correct, because the numbers refer to differant things? Anyway any takers?
     
  6. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,940
    Likes Received:
    5,473
    I would be inclined to tweak the sentence to separate the numbers:

    There were a dozen or so boys, their ages twelve to fifteen..
     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    only that one is correct in re spelling out the numbers... but it should be 'year' not 'years'...
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,098
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    Thanks Maia and CF.

    I thought that if there was more than one then it was 'years' even though 'year' sounds more natural. Thanks for putting me right.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    you would use 'years' in this context:

    but in the example, it was:

    get the difference?
     
  10. Marjatta
    Offline

    Marjatta New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2011
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    0
    Since I seem to be stuck in hyphen hell this week, you can see that I'm becoming obsessed with them (and more confused).

    Would it not be "There were a dozen or so twelve- to fifteen-year-old boys" (with hyphens)?

    Thanks!

    Marjatta
     
  11. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    Here are some rules I've learned about numbers:

    1. Some style guides say to spell out numbers from zero to ten and some say to a hundred and then any round number after that. My opinion is to spell out to a hundred because it's not hard to read, for instance, "ninety-nine."

    2. Use numerals if the numbers are fractions or appear in a series. For instance, "I turned thirty today" vs. "The pages with charts are 14, 35, and 90."

    3. If the number appears in a title, use whatever fashion they used in the title. Here are some movies, for instance: Thirteen Ghosts, 13 Going on 30, U-570, 48 Hours, Back to the Future II, Pet Sematary Two, etc.

    4. If the nubmer appears at the beginning of a sentence, ignore these rules. You must-must-must spell it out. If the number is complicated, revise the sentence.

    5. Dates, times, and references have their own rules depending on what format you use: 4:45; quarter past ten; July 28, 2011; Genesis 3:10, etc.

    Incidentally, you need hyphens for your ages: twelve-year-old boys, for example.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    no, hyphens are not called for there...

    they're needed only if the age functions as the noun and is not modifying one..

    no hyphens called for

    hyphens needed
     
  13. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    "Accompanied by two 12-year-old boys" DOES need a hyphen. I'm not trying to be argumentative, but they spent like a month hammering this out in journalism school. However, you wouldn't need a hyphen if you're saying "The boy was twelve years old." It's only when you're using the age as an adjective where you need a hyphen, always.

    :) :)
     
  14. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    I agree. If you have twelve year old boys, you don't know if you have a dozen year-old boys or a bunch of twelve-year-olds. I've always seen it hyphenated.
     
  15. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i stand [sit] corrected... my non-modifying example should have been a 'years' one as mallory notes... must not have had my morning green tea yet, when i wrote that one... ;-)
     
  16. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Be careful about what those style guides are for, though. That's what I would do when doing technical writing and are probably right for journalism, but not when doing creative writing. If a character says "365", how do you know whether they say "Three hundred sixty five" or "Three hundred and sixty five"? That's why you always spell numbers out in creative writing unless you have a very good reason not to.
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    In dialogue, you should always spell out exactly what is said, for the reason digitig raised.
     
  18. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    See, I would still numeralize it for the opposite reason: does it really matter if a character says "three hundred sixty-five" or "three hundred and sixty-five"? When I see 124, I don't care if the character says "one hundred twenty-four," "one hundred and twenty-four," or "one twenty-four." They're all the same number. The meaning isn't changed, and the reader won't get lost. Unless, for some reason, it makes a difference what the precise wording is, I'd still adhere to the normal rules. But that's just me. Do you have a reference for your reason?

    Edit: I Googled some search strings and didn't come up with much to support or refute you, digitig. The most I came up with was numbers in prose that have to do with dates, and none of the sites I found dealt specifically with how to approach it in dialog except in screenwriting.

    This is the most I found. And it's from a style guide, so take it with a grain of salt or not. Spell out numbers in dialogue whenever it can be done without awkwardness. ... For more guidance, see CMOS 13.42. It only referred to years (as in dates), but not casual numbering. Anyway, I checked out 13.42 in my physical copy. It has to do with symbols in tables and spreadsheets, not numbers in dialog. Seems I have an outdated edition.
     
  19. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    lost...

    but it's not a matter of the character saying the correct number... it's a matter of what s/he does SAY... and one can only speak words, not numerals...
     
  20. VM80
    Offline

    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    Messages:
    1,211
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    UK
    Yep that's it. My editor friend just found a goof where I'd put someone saying '100%'

    She was wondering how on earth he'd pronounce a symbol... :p
     
  21. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    I'll take your word for it. I'm not in a position to make up my own rules or to argue since I'm probably somewhere around the low end of the knowledge totem. But it sounds like a weird distinction that character can't "say" numerals. They're symbols just like any letter. I'd rank this distinction around where I'd rank the rule about never ending a sentence in a preposition: it's a rule that can get cumbersome for readers. I can understand the position, but it seems wrong to saddle the reader with a bunch of words when they'd feel more comfortable with digits. I mean, you could argue that you just need to reword the sentence, but there is that one time out of a hundred when a character needs to say a precise number.

    Still, do you have a site or a book I can look at? I don't want to be argumentative. I want to check any exceptions: dates, times, titles/proper names, etc.

    For instance, concerning dates, one of my characters is a historian who prides himself on his knowledge, so I need him to use precise dates when talking about events or I'd lose some of his character. "World War One began on July twenty-eighth, nineteen fourteen" is more in character for him than "World War One took place early last century." But spelling out each digit in the date looks... clunky.

    I have a character who has a number in his title, Mister 43. It seems cumbersome to write out Mister Forty-Three all the time (even though I argued earlier about spelling numbers below and including one hundred). In a case like this, would I even write out the number in exposition and dialog since it's a proper name?

    Also for titles, it seems downright ludicrous to write Rocky Two when everyone knows it as Rocky II, for instance, or even Twenty Twelve when everyone knows it as 2012.

    I'll probably be back with more questions after I look over my work. Again, I don't want to be argumentative; I want to get this right.
     
  22. VM80
    Offline

    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    Messages:
    1,211
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    UK
    I don't think you'd change titles like that, even in speech.
     
  23. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    Well, I've gone over my work and I've got a few questions now about writing out dialog. It still seems cumbersome enough that the rule is causing a problem rather than fixing, but whatever. I don't know how to represent these. I'm having trouble with how to hyphenate on most of them:

    Common phrases:
    Dates (mostly if writing years out is really necessary):
    Codes:
    Fractions:
    Titles/proper names/designations:
    Computer terminology:
    As I said, some of these, such as the dates, look very cumbersome for a reader to go over that it invalidates the rule. But some instances require that I mention exact dates. Is there some easier way to do this?
     
  24. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    That's the easy one. If that's what's displayed, that's what you put (although a nine-digit hex number seems a bit odd, maybe it makes sense in context).
     
  25. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    It's a guy who has a computer in his brain, but something like the blue screen of death comes up. So it's displayed, but almost as if he's "thinking" it.
     

Share This Page