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Note 7 – Numbers in writing

My writing challenge

For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link –  If you would prefer to dive straight into note 7, then read on…

Writing is not just about letters and words

How are you today?  I’ve had a great day with the family, but I’m back to my blogging this evening.  It’s important to me to keep this challenge up.  Here goes…

Today I was just going to look up the rules of writing out numbers as opposed to spelling them.  To just tell you firstly that 1 to 9 should be written in numbers and ten onwards in words, and secondly that numbers from twenty-one onwards should contain a hyphen, didn’t seem enough for today, so I researched some more…

If your sentence begins with a number and it’s under ten, try writing it in words – it looks and reads better e.g. “Three men ran down the road”.  It is also preferable to spell out large round numbers (eight hundred thousand) and put the commas where you would put them in the number (520,100 would be five hundred and twenty thousand, one hundred).  

From my research today, consistency within a sentence seems to be a very important rule to remember.  You wouldn’t write the following sentences:

“I will have eleven pink sweets and 8 green ones”

“One million plus £1,000,000 equals £2million”,

“One of my bank accounts has 5 million pounds in it, and the other has £400,000” (chance would be a fine thing, I hear you say!). 

A website I came across summarises all of this and more in 16 rules; it’s a mixed bag of numbers, dates, times, fractions and decimals.  Here’s the link – I found it very useful  If this link stops working, the content appears to come from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, by Jane Straus which can be found on Amazon and any other books stores.

Graham King, author of Collins Improve Your Punctuation explains that written communication is not just about letters and words and that it should be clearly written and not ambiguous. He also has a very good section in his book about punctuating numbers and figures.  A couple of points I thought were worth mentioning are:

‘Time’ in writing

When expressing time, use the 12-hour clock adding if it’s morning or afternoon (unless you are required to use the 24-hour clock).  It’s also preferable to put a full-stop and not a colon between the numbers.  For example 4.00 pm or four o’clock in the afternoon.

‘Money’ in writing

Working in a Finance department, I thought I’d look up some rules about money.  Money is mostly expressed in numbers except for large amounts.  E.g. £10,000 is correct, but when it comes to millions and billions it gets confusing, so numbers make their way into the sentence e.g. “the gross premium was six billion this year” .  Don’t forget the rules about consistency within a sentence.

‘Ages’ in writing

Where ages are concerned, it appears it is up to the writer. As a general rule, however, numbers tend to be used e.g. “Let’s all sing happy birthday to my grandmother who is 90 years old today” or “The children are between the ages of four and eleven“.  In the second sentence, it would be advisable to write “the children are between the ages of 4 and eleven“.

Must sign off now.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.  I’ve now completed one week’s worth of notes, which leaves 51 weeks to go (or 358 days to be exact).

Until tomorrow…


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Twitter: @madeirasandra  and  @tipsandluxuries

Reference list

Graham King The Collins Improve your Punctuation, UK


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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