When using numbers in essays and reports, it is important to decide whether to write the number out in full (two hundred thousand four hundred and six) or to use numerals (200,406).
There are some rules to follow to make sure you use numbers in the right way.
Use words if the number can be written in two words of fewer. Remember that some words require a hyphen (twenty-six, thirty-nine). Some guides recommend that numbers up to nine should be written in words, and those over nine written using numerals.
You should use numerals if the number modifies a unit of measurement, time or proportion (5 minutes, 8 kilograms, 54 mph). Abbreviations of units of measure should always be in the singular. (8 kg, 17cm, 12,900 km)
I live at number forty-eight.
I thought there were nine biscuits left in the tin?
My new car does 0-60 mph in just over 12 minutes.
She broke the long jump record by 17 centimetres.
The prize marrow weighed over 67 kg.
Numerals should be used for all larger numbers although the context might determine the precise usage. In technical writing such numbers should always be written using numerals. If the number is less precise, it may be possible to write the number in words.
The rock sample measured 17.74 grams when dried.
The lower attaining maths group's mean score was 88.6, with a standard deviation of 14.3.
There are over thirty million people living in Mexico City.
Florida contains several thousand disenfranchised voters.
Numerals should always be used for decimals and fractions (7.625, 1/4 in, 1/2 a pint, 0.75) unless the figures are vague (...half the voters in the country..., ...two thirds of the population cannot use a colon correctly.)
Following the drying process, 1/2 a gram of copper sulphate was added.
Students spend more than half their disposable income on baked beans.
She beat the world pole-vault record by 1/4 cm.
Nearly a quarter of the world's population survives on less than a pound a day.
Place a hyphen after a unit of measure when the unit modifies a noun: 10-foot pole, 6-inch rule, 3-year-old horse.
He tried to retrieve the lost bottle with a 5-foot stick.
I teach a class of angelic 7-year-old children.
The thief was unable to scale the 12-metre fence.
He was delighted with his 78-kg prize marrow.
There are occasions where combining written numbers and numerals will clear up possible confusion. Where you have two numbers running together, write the shorter one out in words and use numerals for the longer one.
I have a lovely class of 32seven-year-old children.
We need another 12five-litre bottles.
The thief made off with twenty1000-dollar bills.
He counted out 200 fifty-pence pieces.
You should avoid beginning a sentence with a number that is not written out. If a sentence begins with a year, write 'The year' before writing out the year in numbers.
One hundred and seventeen protests were lodged with the ombudsman.
Six hundred and thirty-five nuggets were discovered in the first day of the gold rush.
The year 1849 saw the great gold rush in California.
You should always use numerals in the following situations:
With dates. Monday 20 April, 1968.
I will arrive on Tuesday 17 May, 2004.
They are due back from their holiday on Monday 23 June.
With fractions, decimals and percentages. The word 'percent' should be written out in words unless it is part of a technical report, in which case it is fine to use the mathematical symbol (%).
You will need to add 1/2 a teaspoon of treacle.
More than 20 percent of students admit to spending more on pot noodles than on books.
The IQ scores of the children in the control group increased by 25.75 points.
With money. The only exception to this is when the amounts are vague. In such cases it is fine to write the numbers out in words.
The concert tickets cost £ 27.50 each.
Consumers spend over £ 6 million a year on cous-cous.
Global ice-cream sales exceeded $ 1.2 million last month.
With times. Again, if timings are vague it is fine to write them out in words.
The plane from Bombay will arrive at 16:45.
I'll see you at around half past seven.
The early morning bus arrived at 05:10 on the dot.
We left the pub at around eight o'clock and got home at around nine.
Test your understanding of the use of numbers with this exercise.
By David Becker
So far we have covered the general differences between MLA and APA styles and reviewed how their rules differ when creating in-text citations and reference list entries. However, a reader asked that we cover another difference between the two styles: how they present numbers, particularly ranges of numbers. I’m happy to oblige!
The two styles have very different rules for when to write numbers as words or numerals. MLA Style spells out numbers that can be written in one or two words (three, fifteen, seventy-six, one thousand, twelve billion) and to use numerals for other numbers (2¾; 584; 1,001; 25,000,000). APA Style, on the other hand, generally uses words for numbers below 10 and numerals for numbers 10 and above.
However, the MLA Handbook further notes that science writers frequently use numerals for various kinds of data, such as units of measurement and statistical expressions, regardless of size. This is similar to APA Style’s rules for presenting numerical data (see pages 111–114 in the Publication Manual for more detail).
In ranges of numbers, MLA Style includes the entire second number for numbers up to 99 (1-12; 25-29; 75-99) but uses only the last two digits of the second number for larger numbers, unless more are needed (95-105; 105-19; 2,104-08; 5,362-451). Ranges of years beginning in 1000 AD have their own rules: If the first two digits of both years are the same, include only the last two digits of the second year (1955-85; 2004-09). Otherwise, both numbers should be fully written out (1887-1913; 1998-2008).
APA Style does not have explicit rules for ranges of numbers, except for when referring to a page range or a range of dates in a reference list entry. Numerous examples in Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual show both numbers in a page range being written out in full, regardless of size, and example 23 on page 204 demonstrates the same concept applied to a range of years. These rules relate to APA Style’s emphasis on the importance of specificity and clarity in scientific writing. Thus, a range of numbers (10–40; 101–109; 5,000–5,025; 90,013–90,157) or dates (1999–2003; 2009–2012) should never be abbreviated.
I hope that this post will help those of you transitioning from MLA Style to APA Style the next time you need to include numbers in your research papers. Be sure to also check out our series of posts on numbers and metrication and our FAQ page on when to express numbers as words. If there’s still some residual confusion about numbers or any other difference between the two styles, please comment on this post, drop us a note on Twitter or Facebook, or contact us directly. Your question may be the subject of a future post!