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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Less Than a Dollar
According to AP Stylebook, monetary sums that are less than one dollar should be written in numerals with the word cents spelled out.
- The candy was 20 cents higher at the other store.
- Bob paid 60 cents for the pencil.
Large Numbers and the Word ‘And’
If you are writing out a number with three or more digits, the word ‘and’ doesn’t need to be included. For example:
- Correct: One thousand fifty movies were produced in 2015.
- Incorrect: One thousand and fifty movies were produced in 2015.
Spelling Out Decades
When choosing to spell out a decade, the decade should not be capitalized. For example:
- The eighties marked a decline in automobile use.
Knowing when to write out a number can be tricky. The main style guides have often contradicting rules, yet they agree that numbers should always be spelled out at the beginning of a sentence, and compound numbers twenty-one to ninety-nine should be hyphenated.
The rules above are the guidelines that professionals and academics can agree on, and should be followed when writing papers, articles, and other forms of writing.