Formatting Numbers In Creative Writing

by | Apr 13, 2008 | Format Your Writing | 5 comments

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Deadline: Thursday, December 22nd

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.

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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!

5 Comments

  1. Jim Ryan

    Great piece!!!!
    I cut and pasted and hung it on my computer.

    Reply
  2. Janet Jensen

    Thank you! I’ve always been unclear on this, and probably antiquated. This is most helpful.

    Reply
  3. Kat G

    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.

    Reply
  4. Mike

    How about someone’s age? He was twenty-eight last Thursday…
    Sonia was only 18.

    Reply
    • Blog Editor

      Please review the article for the answer to your question.

      Reply

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