Editing Style guide to writing numbers.

flucket

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I was lurking the feedback forum and saw something fairly minute but important brought up as feedback by the user zeryn.

One thing I see from the start, is using "2". It's probably just a pet peeve but in general numbers below 10 should be spelled out. Of course that can be different for everyone...
I think everyone has some kind of petty writing rule that they particularly latch on to and for whatever reason end up bothered by when it's broken, and the "correct" method of how to write numbers is a very petty writing rule that hits up that point for me. Beginning a sentence with "and"? I don't care, go for it. But the rules of words vs. numbers is one that always gets to me. But it's also much less known than I thought it was, apparently, as I see this brought up sometimes.

So here is a short style guide as to how to write numbers.

Now, depending on the medium the rules vary, and beyond that there are always exceptions to the rule. So there is literally no ultimately "correct" way, and if there are points in this style guide you feel are "incorrect", they may indeed be incorrect to you, but it doesn't make them objectively incorrect. Feel free to add your own points as to how you have been taught, but please don't go around blanket stating "what you said is wrong". Unfortunately, the written word is inconsistent.

When talking about prose or literature (so not something like a business report, design document, etc. but purely, within the context of ScribbleHub, prose), the style guide is usually:
  1. First, and this is the most important: numbers in dialogue should always be written out. Excepting instances where it becomes too visually confusing if you're dealing with a lot of numbers, or some of the other exceptions to rules listed out below, spoken character dialogue should always have written out numbers, no matter the value. The reason is simple: numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, et al) are symbols that represent a numeric value, the names of numbers (one, two, three, four, et al) is the language. We cannot vocalise "1" as a symbol, but we can vocalise "one" as a word referring to the symbol. Again, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule, but please, try to remember then when you're writing dialogue, you're writing the characters' speech. The same way you would write "aaaah!" instead of "scream!", you write "one" instead of "1" for dialogue. Okay, moving on to some of the more generalised rules of writing number names vs numeric values.
  2. Single digit numbers (1-9) in writing should always be spelled out, barring very specific circumstances (eg. if you're talking about computer binary language in the story, writing 1 and 0 instead of one and zero is understandable as the numeric value itself is the language, not the word. Another exception will be brought up in point five).
  3. Double digit numbers (11-99) in writing are usually spelled out too, but can sometimes be written in numbers. In other words, it's traditional to spell any number that can be expressed as two words (eg. twenty-nine), but you're not wrong for writing them as numbers.
  4. Numbers that are expressed above two words (triple digit and upwards numbers eg. one hundred and three) should be written as numbers, but can in certain circumstances be spelled out (see: point eight). This means that, yes, you can write one hundred or 100, since "one hundred" is a two word number.
  5. A rule which breaks the rule: when writing two related but separate numbers (kind of a confusing sentence but as example: two separate measurements i.e. 1m and 111m - with both representing a measurement of distance, but two separate measurements) within the same sentence, they need to be written consistently. That means if you have the example "one" and "111" in the same sentence, they both need to be written as either words or numbers. So the sentence should be something like "he moved from the one metre mark to the one hundred and eleven metre mark" or "he moved from the 1 metre mark to the 111 metre mark".
  6. When two numbers are in the same sentence but they are unrelated, you can write them differently. So in this case: the five of them moved from the 1 metre mark to the 111 metre mark. Note that the written five denotes the number of people, while the other numbers denote a measurement of distance, thus they're unrelated numbers. I know, it's a bitch.
  7. Two separate numbers next to each other should probably be written differently, mostly for the purpose of differentiation. "We have six 1-metre long planks of wood" vs. "we have six one metre long planks of wood". The second sentence is readable, but it may take you a second try to immediately make sense of it.
  8. Never start a sentence with a numeric number. This means if you have a sentence that starts with "1,503", you need to write out "One thousand, five hundred and three", or you need to change the sentence structure in order to place the number later in the sentence: "One thousand, five hundred and three people gathered together" vs. "A gathering of 1,503 people".
Again, there's not a lot of hard-line rules that are consistent "must do it this way"s in writing numbers, but these are some of the more consistently agreed upon points. So again, if there is more you'd like to add, or express ways you were taught differently to what was listed above, please feel free to do so, but always remembered that the rules of the written language, as far as English goes, is a relatively (stress on relatively) young thing, and not only that, it is ever changing. A rule that exists today could become obsolete tomorrow.

A style guide is just that: a guide.
 

NiQuinn

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I was lurking the feedback forum and saw something fairly minute but important brought up as feedback by the user zeryn.



I think everyone has some kind of petty writing rule that they particularly latch on to and for whatever reason end up bothered by when it's broken, and the "correct" method of how to write numbers is a very petty writing rule that hits up that point for me. Beginning a sentence with "and"? I don't care, go for it. But the rules of words vs. numbers is one that always gets to me. But it's also much less known than I thought it was, apparently, as I see this brought up sometimes.

So here is a short style guide as to how to write numbers.

Now, depending on the medium the rules vary, and beyond that there are always exceptions to the rule. So there is literally no ultimately "correct" way, and if there are points in this style guide you feel are "incorrect", they may indeed be incorrect to you, but it doesn't make them objectively incorrect. Feel free to add your own points as to how you have been taught, but please don't go around blanket stating "what you said is wrong". Unfortunately, the written word is inconsistent.

When talking about prose or literature (so not something like a business report, design document, etc. but purely, within the context of ScribbleHub, prose), the style guide is usually:
  1. First, and this is the most important: numbers in dialogue should always be written out. Excepting instances where it becomes too visually confusing if you're dealing with a lot of numbers, or some of the other exceptions to rules listed out below, spoken character dialogue should always have written out numbers, no matter the value. The reason is simple: numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, et al) are symbols that represent a numeric value, the names of numbers (one, two, three, four, et al) is the language. We cannot vocalise "1" as a symbol, but we can vocalise "one" as a word referring to the symbol. Again, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule, but please, try to remember then when you're writing dialogue, you're writing the characters' speech. The same way you would write "aaaah!" instead of "scream!", you write "one" instead of "1" for dialogue. Okay, moving on to some of the more generalised rules of writing number names vs numeric values.
  2. Single digit numbers (1-9) in writing should always be spelled out, barring very specific circumstances (eg. if you're talking about computer binary language in the story, writing 1 and 0 instead of one and zero is understandable as the numeric value itself is the language, not the word. Another exception will be brought up in point five).
  3. Double digit numbers (11-99) in writing are usually spelled out too, but can sometimes be written in numbers. In other words, it's traditional to spell any number that can be expressed as two words (eg. twenty-nine), but you're not wrong for writing them as numbers.
  4. Numbers that are expressed above two words (triple digit and upwards numbers eg. one hundred and three) should be written as numbers, but can in certain circumstances be spelled out (see: point eight). This means that, yes, you can write one hundred or 100, since "one hundred" is a two word number.
  5. A rule which breaks the rule: when writing two related but separate numbers (kind of a confusing sentence but as example: two separate measurements i.e. 1m and 111m - with both representing a measurement of distance, but two separate measurements) within the same sentence, they need to be written consistently. That means if you have the example "one" and "111" in the same sentence, they both need to be written as either words or numbers. So the sentence should be something like "he moved from the one metre mark to the one hundred and eleven metre mark" or "he moved from the 1 metre mark to the 111 metre mark".
  6. When two numbers are in the same sentence but they are unrelated, you can write them differently. So in this case: the five of them moved from the 1 metre mark to the 111 metre mark. Note that the written five denotes the number of people, while the other numbers denote a measurement of distance, thus they're unrelated numbers. I know, it's a bitch.
  7. Two separate numbers next to each other should probably be written differently, mostly for the purpose of differentiation. "We have six 1-metre long planks of wood" vs. "we have six one metre long planks of wood". The second sentence is readable, but it may take you a second try to immediately make sense of it.
  8. Never start a sentence with a numeric number. This means if you have a sentence that starts with "1,503", you need to write out "One thousand, five hundred and three", or you need to change the sentence structure in order to place the number later in the sentence: "One thousand, five hundred and three people gathered together" vs. "A gathering of 1,503 people".
Again, there's not a lot of hard-line rules that are consistent "must do it this way"s in writing numbers, but these are some of the more consistently agreed upon points. So again, if there is more you'd like to add, or express ways you were taught differently to what was listed above, please feel free to do so, but always remembered that the rules of the written language, as far as English goes, is a relatively (stress on relatively) young thing, and not only that, it is ever changing. A rule that exists today could become obsolete tomorrow.

A style guide is just that: a guide.
Interestingly enough, this is a pet peeve of mine too. For the longest time I had no idea why it irked me. Finally, I came across an article stating that the reason why it was important to have numbers spelled out is for the sake of the reader. The tendency of the brain, when reading long text, is to get used to the letters you see. So, when you suddenly see a number written as a number, the immersion in the text vanishes and you tend to focus more on the number than the place where the story is at, though momentarily.

In medical texts, numbers are written as is because it gives emphasis to something important. In novels, unless there is a reason, numbers spelled out is usually (supposed to be) the norm. At least, that's my observation.
 

Phantomheart

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Ah grammar, a continued debate. For the safest purposes, I write out all my numbers unless they are a form of measurement or data.
 

Nihilaine

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Ahha, I'm guilty of doing these since laziness gets the better of me from time to time, especially if the numbers are somewhere along four digits and up. 😓
 

DaoFox

『Silkmaid』『Queen Sylvia Glasscrest of Arya』
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I agree with the guide... But will continue to write ignoring numbers lol. Too busy trying to get the write idea across to worry about being academically correct haha.
 

Rinne

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I remember back in school we were told to always write out all numbers twenty and below. Save for all the exceptions.
For any numbers above twenty but below a hundred, it was basically left to us whether we write them out or not.
Numbers like "a/one thousand", "a/one million" etc were also always written out.

There's one thing I'd like to note though. There's also the case with ages, e.g. "an 11-year-old child".
I don't think I've ever seen it written out there unless it was a single digit, and even for single digits, I've seen it written as a numerical before as well.
Not sure whether this is something that has to do explicitly with age-related numbers, similar to other measurements, or because it is an adjective phrase.

In any case, thanks for the guide.

Imagine writing "There's 1 thing..."
 

Chiisutofupuru

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You kinda already explained this but:
Another exception is if you want to show a visual, like if your character would read a digital clock: 1:35. (Because technically they are reading it that way, and not spelled out, ya know ^^
 

Pistachio

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I was lurking the feedback forum and saw something fairly minute but important brought up as feedback by the user zeryn.



I think everyone has some kind of petty writing rule that they particularly latch on to and for whatever reason end up bothered by when it's broken, and the "correct" method of how to write numbers is a very petty writing rule that hits up that point for me. Beginning a sentence with "and"? I don't care, go for it. But the rules of words vs. numbers is one that always gets to me. But it's also much less known than I thought it was, apparently, as I see this brought up sometimes.

So here is a short style guide as to how to write numbers.

Now, depending on the medium the rules vary, and beyond that there are always exceptions to the rule. So there is literally no ultimately "correct" way, and if there are points in this style guide you feel are "incorrect", they may indeed be incorrect to you, but it doesn't make them objectively incorrect. Feel free to add your own points as to how you have been taught, but please don't go around blanket stating "what you said is wrong". Unfortunately, the written word is inconsistent.

When talking about prose or literature (so not something like a business report, design document, etc. but purely, within the context of ScribbleHub, prose), the style guide is usually:
  1. First, and this is the most important: numbers in dialogue should always be written out. Excepting instances where it becomes too visually confusing if you're dealing with a lot of numbers, or some of the other exceptions to rules listed out below, spoken character dialogue should always have written out numbers, no matter the value. The reason is simple: numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, et al) are symbols that represent a numeric value, the names of numbers (one, two, three, four, et al) is the language. We cannot vocalise "1" as a symbol, but we can vocalise "one" as a word referring to the symbol. Again, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule, but please, try to remember then when you're writing dialogue, you're writing the characters' speech. The same way you would write "aaaah!" instead of "scream!", you write "one" instead of "1" for dialogue. Okay, moving on to some of the more generalised rules of writing number names vs numeric values.
  2. Single digit numbers (1-9) in writing should always be spelled out, barring very specific circumstances (eg. if you're talking about computer binary language in the story, writing 1 and 0 instead of one and zero is understandable as the numeric value itself is the language, not the word. Another exception will be brought up in point five).
  3. Double digit numbers (11-99) in writing are usually spelled out too, but can sometimes be written in numbers. In other words, it's traditional to spell any number that can be expressed as two words (eg. twenty-nine), but you're not wrong for writing them as numbers.
  4. Numbers that are expressed above two words (triple digit and upwards numbers eg. one hundred and three) should be written as numbers, but can in certain circumstances be spelled out (see: point eight). This means that, yes, you can write one hundred or 100, since "one hundred" is a two word number.
  5. A rule which breaks the rule: when writing two related but separate numbers (kind of a confusing sentence but as example: two separate measurements i.e. 1m and 111m - with both representing a measurement of distance, but two separate measurements) within the same sentence, they need to be written consistently. That means if you have the example "one" and "111" in the same sentence, they both need to be written as either words or numbers. So the sentence should be something like "he moved from the one metre mark to the one hundred and eleven metre mark" or "he moved from the 1 metre mark to the 111 metre mark".
  6. When two numbers are in the same sentence but they are unrelated, you can write them differently. So in this case: the five of them moved from the 1 metre mark to the 111 metre mark. Note that the written five denotes the number of people, while the other numbers denote a measurement of distance, thus they're unrelated numbers. I know, it's a bitch.
  7. Two separate numbers next to each other should probably be written differently, mostly for the purpose of differentiation. "We have six 1-metre long planks of wood" vs. "we have six one metre long planks of wood". The second sentence is readable, but it may take you a second try to immediately make sense of it.
  8. Never start a sentence with a numeric number. This means if you have a sentence that starts with "1,503", you need to write out "One thousand, five hundred and three", or you need to change the sentence structure in order to place the number later in the sentence: "One thousand, five hundred and three people gathered together" vs. "A gathering of 1,503 people".
Again, there's not a lot of hard-line rules that are consistent "must do it this way"s in writing numbers, but these are some of the more consistently agreed upon points. So again, if there is more you'd like to add, or express ways you were taught differently to what was listed above, please feel free to do so, but always remembered that the rules of the written language, as far as English goes, is a relatively (stress on relatively) young thing, and not only that, it is ever changing. A rule that exists today could become obsolete tomorrow.

A style guide is just that: a guide.
Just when I remember to edit a chapter with this number problem, your post appeared. Tsk tsk tsk, I hear ye oh great powers that be. :blob_okay:
 
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