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How to Write Numbers in Words: Rules & Examples

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Knowing how to write numbers as words is important in academic and professional settings. In this lesson, we will cover the main rules along with examples to show you how to write numbers as words.

Background

Knowing how to write numbers as words is important for crafting professional articles and academic papers. Many style guides such as the Modern Language Association, Associated Press Stylebook, and Chicago Manual of Style have rules for writing out numbers that are very similar to one another. The main reason for these rules is clarity within writing. Since the rules for writing out numbers as words vary from one style guide to the next, this lesson will provide you with the rules that are shared between the various styles of composition. Examples will help you understand each rule.

Rules and Examples

Spelling out Numbers under Ten

A number should be spelled out if it is less than ten. However, it is important to note that this rule varies between the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style. The AP Stylebook states that numbers between zero and nine should be spelled out, while the Chicago Manual of Style states that numbers between zero and one hundred should be spelled out. Writers should check with their editors or teachers to determine which rule to follow.

Beginning a Sentence

Write out numbers that begin a sentence. Years are not an exception to this rule in the Chicago Manual of Style, but according to the AP Stylebook, years do not have to be spelled out when starting a sentence. Examples include:

  • Twelve students went on the field trip.
  • Four mice ate cheese, and 105 ate fruit.

Fractions and Hyphens

Fractions are usually written out in words when they are not mixed numbers. Furthermore, a written-out fraction requires a hyphen. Examples include:

  • Nearly one-fourth of students eat hamburgers for lunch.
  • After the storm, one-half of the residents lost their homes.

Mixed Numbers at the Beginning of a Sentence

Generally, within the body of a sentence, a mixed number does not need to be spelled out. However, when the sentence begins with a mixed number, it should be spelled out in words. For example:

  • Two and three-fourths of the three apples went missing.

Compound Numbers and Hyphens

When writing out compound numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine, include hyphens. For example:

  • Forty-nine children were found in the cave.
  • Over twenty-three cats were rescued from the flood.

Numbers with Four or More Digits Require a Comma

Although numbers in the thousands do not need to be spelled out, it is important to know that when you use these numbers in your writing, a comma should be placed between the thousands and hundreds places. For example:

  • Mark owed $1,078 to Tina.

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