Thread: Rules to spell out numbers

1. Rules to spell out numbers

I understand that numbers placed at the beginning of a sentence should be spelled out. But does it apply when there are “among”, like the following sentence?

“Fifteen among 19 samples were reactive.”

Because there are always some exceptions to a rule. For example, it is usually necessary to spell out numbers smaller than 10, but if it is a series of numbers describing types, you can write like “This year we hired 20 engineers, 15 secretaries and 8 (not eight) clerks.”

So, how about “Fifteen among 19 samples were reactive”?

2. Re: Rules to spell out numbers

I don't like the mix much- I'd write them both out in full.

3. Re: Rules to spell out numbers

Thank you, tdol!
It's so good to know that great teachers are always here to help me!

4. Re: Rules to spell out numbers

Originally Posted by pink dragon
Thank you, tdol!
It's so good to know that great teachers are always here to help me!
You're welcome. I think consistency is a good basis for decisions about language- 'fifteen out of 20 ' look weird.

5. Re: Rules to spell out numbers

I use these rules:

Spell out the whole numbers one through nine. Write other numbers using digits. I met seven people. John met 14 people.

Always spell out numbers at the start of a sentence. Incorrect: 16 cars were parked on the street. Correct: Sixteen cars were parked on the street.

Spell out round numbers and approximations.The tree is about sixteen feet tall.

Related numbers should be expressed consistently. Incorrect: He worked 40 hours the first week, and only seven the second week. Correct: He worked forty hours the first week, and only seven the second week.

When two numbers are beside each other, spell out one of them. The couple had their choice of two 3-bedroom apartments. Another couple had to decide between 3 two-bedroom apartments.

6. Re: Rules to spell out numbers

Thank you very much, Robert B. Mercer! It is a great help.

Now I have another question.
Originally Posted by Robert B. Mercer
Another couple had to decide between 3 two-bedroom apartments.
I thought "between" is used when comparing 2 things, and "among" should be used when comparing 3 or more things.
Is it OK to say "between 3..."?

7. Re: Rules to spell out numbers

Yes, and no. You are right with BETWEEN for two things, and AMONG for more than that... but you -can- be a little flexible.

Think of what BETWEEN means, physically. It means an object is in a place in the middle of two other things, or three other things.

When you have two objects, where the middle is, where 'between them' is, is very easy to see.

But where is the place in the middle when you have three things? It is harder to see, to imagine.

And four, or five things? You know the town BETWEEN or in the middle of two large cities in your country... but which is the town in the middle of five large cities? It just becomes a harder mental picture.

So try to use "If the choice is between Paris and London for vacation, I choose Paris!" and "Among all the places we could go on vacation, I choose Paris!"

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