How to write numbers

Increasingly in our society people are writing numbers smaller than ten as numbers instead of as words. Many VFR readers do this. They will write “2 countries” or “3 criminals.” That is wrong. It should be “two countries” and “three criminals.” It is an uncontested rule that numbers less then ten are written as words. Also, as I learned in elementary school, “ten” also should be written as a word, though that rule is less universally accepted. In one of the two huge Microsoft Word macros I developed years ago to prepare comments for posting, there is a macro which stops at each small number written as a number and gives me the option to change it to a word by pressing Yes or leaving as it is by pressing No. But I don’t always prepare comments in Word and sometimes have to make the change manually. In any case, readers sending comments to VFR should use correct English.

Another popular trend today is to use numerical symbols in place of words. For example, many commenters, instead of writing, “over 100,” or “more than 100,” will write, “100+”. That is totally unacceptable. VFR is a written discussion forum in which we communicate with each other in the English language. It is not a math class or a science publication in which we communicate in mathematical symbols. People who think it’s too much bother to write “two” instead of “2” have misplaced priorities. The contemporary habit of using numbers and mathematical symbols instead of words debases the language and subtly dehumanizes us. It should be resisted.

- end of initial entry -

August 1

Wanda S. writes:

Another rule for writing numbers: numbers beginning a sentence must always be written out in words. For example: “The King is coming with 200 soldiers.” “Two hundred is not nearly enough.”

Of course, people write out numbers instead of words because of speed and convenience. Ironically, these days the sort of numbers now in common use - “trillion,” for example - are so colossal and impossible to imagine, it’s actually quicker to spell them out in letters rather than try to count how many zeroes are required.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 31, 2012 02:43 PM | Send

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