Numbers, numbers, everywhere

Ten? 10? 1,000? one thousand? 15%? fifteen percent? 15 percent? 3/4? 75 percent?

Confused on the ‘correct’ way to use numbers, decimals, fractions and percentages in your writing? Relax – we have the answers.

Numbers are everywhere nowadays; it’s common knowledge that using numbers or percentages in headings will make it more likely that readers will open blog posts/articles/emails, etc. But there are rules concerning just how we actually write those numbers.

Basic rules (and when to break them!):


  • Nine or 9?  twenty-nine or 29?


10 is the turning point. Generally, numbers below 10 are spelled out while 10 and above are written as numerals:

nine weeks;          six children;          12 apples;          90 days;           three months;          14 dogs

The main exception is if the ‘number’ will be the first word in a sentence; so

Twenty-five years ago today, we got married.


Ordinal numbers follow the same ruling:


on the seventh day;          our second child;          their 12th win of the season


When should we break this rule?


  • Headings:

” 7 tips to improve your writing” (compare “Seven tips to improve your writing“) No question which heading is more attention catching. As mentioned earlier, numbers attract attention and lead to more click-throughs. For this reason, many people use numerals for numbers below 10 in their headings, sub-headings and block quotes.


  • Dates:

August 2‘ not ‘August second


  • Ages – when they immediately follow a child’s name:

Ian and his wife have two children, Charles 4, and Nancy, 2.


  • Addresses:

5, Victoria Avenue (though ordinal numbers for street names should be spelled out if lower than 10th) So, 49, Seventh St. but 189, 52nd Avenue


What about percentages and fractions?



For most commonly used fractions, spell out the numbers:


The project is two-thirds finished.         I’m three-quarters of the way through the book.




In copy, it is preferable to write 75 percent, but 75% may be used in headings, sub-headings and block quotes for effect. (Percentages below 10 should still be spelled out.)


City sees 15% Increase in Cost of Living Since 2012       


We estimate this will lead to a 22 percent saving in costs across the board.


Property prices rose an average of six percent in the last nine months.         




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