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Formatting Numbers In Creative Writing

Whether you’re reading your favorite author’s novel or the local newspaper, you’ll find that numbers are formatted differently in each. A newspaper, for example, uses AP style, while other publishers follow The Chicago Manual of Style. And while each publisher has its own modified in-house style guide, there are some basic rules you can apply when writing numbers in your text.

  • Spell out whole numbers from one to ten. I found seven mistakes in your essay.
  • Use numerals after ten. She noticed 37 spotted deer and 46 squirrels.
  • Round numbers should be spelled out. This year, twenty thousand people are expected to show up. More than six million people crowded the desert city in 2002.
  • Spell out the number if it is the first word in a sentence. Twenty-four hours are not enough. Nineteen forty-two was a banner year for the company.
  • Spell out simple fractions, and use numerals for mixed fractions. Altogether, we walked two-thirds of a mile. Use 3¼ cups of milk.
  • Always use numerals with a.m. or p.m., but spell them out with “o’clock.” It is 6 p.m. They’ll arrive at seven o’clock tomorrow.
  • Use numerals to emphasize exact times of day. Catch the L train at 6:23 sharp.
  • When time is expressed in hours and minutes, use a hyphen (six-thirty) but not if the minutes must be hyphenated (six forty-five).
  • Spell out the “percent” symbol in creative copy and use numerals. She found 70 percent of the pieces.
  • For organizations and products, follow the organization’s style. 7-Eleven, Six Flags
  • Use numerals for decimals. Measure it to .09 inches.
  • Stay consistent within a sentence unless the numbers are unrelated. I needed 6 new patients, not 60! OR: I needed six new patients, not sixty! I have 60 new patients but only three new nurses.

Submit to Review Board

Some other examples:

SPELLED OUT
a hundred years
the nineties
a hundred dollars

NUMERALS
107 years
’90s or the 1990s
$2.41
Highway 66
3198 Main Street
pages 35-37

It is always helpful to have a proofreader, like those at Writer’s Relief, look over your creative writing before sending it out for publication. If you’re still not sure, call us!

3 Responses to Formatting Numbers In Creative Writing

  1. This is very helpful – now if I could find something on the differance of to/too ad their/there – that is another area I can use guidance in.

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