How To Write Numbers

Decipher when to use the numerical representation of numbers and when not to

You may be asking yourself, “Why do I need to learn how to write numbers?”

Well, let me be the first to tell you that learning how to write numbers is extremely important. Why? Because you have to do it at some point. Whether you are writing an essay, writing up a report for work or writing a memo, you will come to a point where you will need to write a number.

I know, I know, writing numbers is not brain surgery, but there are appropriate ways to write them. If you are truly trying to improve your writing and start Writing-Savvy, then it’s important to take a few minutes to see if you have been writing numbers the correct way or not.

There are so many types of numbers; there are small numbers, large numbers, dates, percentages, recipes, roman numerals, centuries etc. And each of these numbers should be formatted correctly.


The rules for using the correct format for numbers vary depending on the context.

Below are some standard rules that will work for academic and professional writing.

  • Spell out all small numbers from zero through ten: This is a standard rule that is displayed in formal writing.
  • Example: At the bank, we had to wait two hours to open an account.

  • Spell out numbers that can be written in one or two words.
  • Example: I am so happy that two hundred people are coming to my wedding Saturday.

  • Don’t start a sentence with a number. pell out all numbers at the beginning of a sentence. If the number is very large and you would prefer not to spell it out, then rearrange the number in a way so that the number is no longer at the beginning of the sentence.
  • Example: Thirty-three hundred people attended the charity event.

    Example: The charity even had 3,300 people in attendance.

  • Use numbers for addresses, dates, years and times.
  • Example: July 5, 2012

    Example: 11:10 A.M.

    Example: Sara Jones, 1234 First Street, San Diego, CA 12345.

  • Use figures for recipes, measurements and specific identification.
  • Example: Add 2 cups of sugar and stir.

    Example: Since 25% of the students in our class did poorly, the teacher allowed everyone to retake the final exam.

    Example: At MGM Grand, we stayed in room 424.

    Example: My cousin is now 6’2” tall and weighs 250 pounds.

  • Centuries and decades should be spelled out.
  • Example: The eighties were the best.

  • For very large numbers, use a combination of words and numbers.
  • Example: The national debt now stands at $19.2 trillion.

Although this list may seem long, it is actually pretty simple material. To become a better writer, it is good to know what is expected in an academic paper. The list above contains the most popular use of numbers in a written paper. By practicing how to write numbers more effectively in your papers, it will become easier and easier.

If you are writing your paper in MLA format, be sure to follow the tips above. Click here for more information on MLA paper format.


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