Numbers: When to use words

When to use words to represent numbers

Spell out a number or related numbers at the beginning of a sentence.
Twelve of the editors were at the convention that day.
Three-, four-, and five-night packages are available.

Spell out ages of inanimate objects less than 10 years old.
The four-year-old car needed repainting.
The plants were eight years old.

Spell out indefinite numerical expressions.
This arena will seat several thousand people.
A picture is worth a thousand words.

Spell out simple fractions and isolated simple fractions.
Flowers are grown in two-thirds of the garden.
Fry half of the eggs at a time.

Spell out numbers that are less than 10 and are not units of measure or dimensions including units of time, except in food copy. In food copy, use figures for units of time.
three-car garage
three cars
two-story home
two stories
five minutes
two hours

Exception: Bake 2 hours.

Spell out one of two consecutive numbers (unless it’s an address). Usually, in a Materials List, spell out the first number; sixteen 2-inch beads, but 262 two-inch beads (262 is too awkward to spell out).

Spell out numbers preceding a compound modifier containing a figure.
The porch was supported by eight 6-foot poles.

See also Dimensions, Measurements, and Sizes


Figures to represent numbers
Words to represent numbers
Telephone numbers

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