Interactive Header

Robin Writes Header
Robin Writes Header
home bio contact projects interviews

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wordworking: N is for Numbers

If you're anything like me, you get confused about which numbers to write out. Is it over 10 or under 10? And when writing seventeen year old, I can't remember if the hyphens belong or not, but I know the hyphens do belong in a query letter. (Seventeen-year-old Rae ...)

Here's the breakdown:

Write out numbers less than 10: nine, eight, . . . two, one.

Don't start a sentence with a numeral: 12 hairless moles should be twelve hairless moles

Spell out (and lowercase) centuries and decades: In the eighties I watched more Dirty Dancing than the average single-digit kid.

Write out ordinal numbers: first, not 1st

If two numbers are next to each other it can be weird. 12 10-year-old girls, for instance, should be written twelve 10-year-
old girls.

On hyphenation of ages I went for the big guys:

"Hyphenate ages when they are adjective phrases involving a unit of measurement: “Her ten-year-old car is beginning to give her trouble.” A girl can be a “ten-year-old” (“child” is implied). But there are no hyphens in such an adjectival phrase as “Her car is ten years old.”" Chicago Manual of Style

"When the age is an adjective that comes before the noun and modifies the noun, or when the age is a noun, hyphenate." Grammar Girl

If I got anything wrong, please correct me in the comments. Please let me know if you're doing A to Z and I'll come and say hello.

Write On:D


  1. This is quite interesting and a subject I have not thought of.


  2. Those are great points and put this way they should be easier to remember.

  3. What do you use as your source for these rules? Several read familiar, but I'm always curious what people invest linguistic authority into.

    John at The Bathroom Monologues

    1. Grammar girl is the queen of the month, but Strunk and White, and various style manuals, grammar texts, and google have also been my resources.

  4. I didn't know about lowercase centuries and decades. I think I flopped back and forth on that one. Now I know!

  5. I am pretty sure I always get these wrong. Thanks for the info Robin!! I am going to go back to this as a reference, I'm sure. :)

  6. I changed something in my MS becasue of this, so thanks for that :)

  7. Excellent post! You covered the bases very well. :)

  8. That's one good post! :)

    -Fellow blogger from A to Z!

  9. You know what I hate about numbers?
    I hate the apostrophe that gets put when you want to say, like, 80's. Why is that there? I don't even know if it's correct except that my spell check tells me "80s" is incorrect. But you spell it eighties, not eighty's, so I don't get it. It's a good reason to spell things out though, except it's cumbersome to spell it all the way out if you want to say the 1980s.

  10. Great post. I need to make some changes to my wip.

    Moody Writing

  11. This is a really amazing post! I enjoyed reading this very much.

  12. Awesome post! And very informative. Will have to bookmark this. :)

  13. Just think all these grammar rules are being ingrained in your head forever!! It's a perk from A-Z posting. :)