“You look like a future pedophile in this picture, number one. Number two, it doesn’t even have a first name, it just says ‘McLovin’!”—Seth spelling out the numbers behind a bad fake ID
This week, we review when to spell out numerals.
Mastering the rules for numerals is more difficult than performing the tablecloth trick without at least a few bucks in property damage and some injuries. In fact, our official style guide has 49 separate entries dedicated to various rules about spelling out numerals. The issue is a straight-up hot mess . . . so let’s start at the beginning.
A numeral is not a number. It expresses a number. Numerals can be figures, letters, or words—but they all signify numbers. That is why the Arabic figure 5, the Latin letter V, and the Spanish word cinco all look very different but mean the same thing.
When writing numerals, it’s easy to get confused about when to use figures or words. For example, do you write that the creep next door owns “6 cats” or “six cats”? Let’s keep it simple by reviewing the guidelines most likely to affect your content (examples included for less obvious rules).
In the following situations, use words instead of figures to indicate numbers:
Use figures for numerals when writing about the following:
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be Numeral Uno.