1. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    spelling out numbers??

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by John Carlo, Oct 8, 2009.

    Hi all,
    Quick question. When should numbers be spelled out in a narrative or just plainly stated? For ex: 22 minutes vs twenty two minutes
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Um, I might be pulling this answer out of my nether reaches, but I think the switch happens when you get to three digits.
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There appears little absolute uniformity on the subject, but some things are generally regarded as correct form in formal writing.

    - Write out small numbers (ten and under), and numbers that are expressed with one word, e.g. nineteen

    - Dates (inc. centuries) should not be written out

    - Larger numbers are not written out, unless they are an approximation when the following is used, "approx 700 million ..."

    And most important - be consistent.
     
  4. Berserkr
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    Berserkr Member

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    I'm probably completely wrong, but it's my understanding that numbers should always be spelled out in dialogue, but it's okay to use either way otherwise, as long as you are consistent.
     
  5. Mr Book
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    Mr Book New Member

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    I've wondered about this, not sure if when in a story would it be professional to write the number or to go the easy route. Actually looking at it it makes sense not to write out a large number considering you would fill an entire line with just the number.
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I'll throw my vote in with the general consensus. It seems to me that smaller numbers are always spelled out, whereas larger, cumbersome numbers are often typed numerically. I don't believe there's any solid rule, though. It just comes down to what looks good/professional or what makes sense in context.

    Some huge numbers are also spelled out in cases where the author is trying to make a point. Let's say a character is a genius math-whiz. Spelling out his long-winded, precise-to-the-decimal-point answer to a question puts a certain emphasis on his intelligence/arrogance/precision/boring personality, etc. . .

    So, for anything beyond small numbers (twenty-five, fifteen. .) it seems to be largely a stylistic choice. It's a question of what you're trying to convey. If you're just quoting a statistic in nonfiction, spelling out 1,254,356,345,342 would be pretty pointless and tedious, IMO. On the other hand, if you want to show off a character's "computer brain," it could help to give a certain impression. . .

    Edit: Although, on second thought, even in the nonfiction example, spelling out the number could make it seem more "real", more impressive. So it's pretty much always just a question of what you're trying to accomplish. .
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, numbers must always be spelled out in dialog...

    in fiction narrative, it's a styling choice, but most would still be spelled out... the 'rules' apply more rigidly in re 'formal' non-fiction [journalism, scholarly and technical writing and the like]...
     
  8. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Since we are on this topic of numbers, what about words like first, second, third, 4th, fifth, 30th, 100th etc
     
  9. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Always use the word.
     
  10. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    how about when you to refer to a title like on star trek,

    Number 1. (Will Riker)

    Or something like

    I am the 1st commander of the Vern Empire

    or

    He is my 1st in command.
     
  11. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    If "number one" is used as a title in place of a name, it should probably be capitalised. e.g. "Number One, set the warp to. . ."

    "First in command" isn't a title, though. . It's just a position, so it wouldn't be capitalised.

    Use the words in each case.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Spell them out:

    Join me in the Ready Room, Number One.
    I am the first commander (First Commander if that is a named rank) of the Vern Empire.
    He is my first in command.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and if it is a formal rank, there should be no 'the' in front of it... so--

     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure about that one, Maia. You can either refer to Commander in Chief or the Commander in Chief. In Asimov's Second Foundation, I'm pretty sure the Mule is referred to both as First Citizen and the First Citizen in different passages.
     
  16. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    Star trek tng rules!

    What about time? Sometimes, it reads as 12:20, and somethimes, "twenty after twelve."

    Also, should that have been in q-marks? When reading the time, i mean.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he may have, cog, but that would be using it as a name, imo...
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, it shouldn't be in " "... and whatever the writer uses, numerals, or words, it should be consistent throughout, not one way in some places and the other elsewhere... in dialog, however, it must always be spelled out, so we can see what the person actually said, as we speak in words, not numerals...
     

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