A numeral is a figure, letter, word, or group of words expressing a number. For example:

figure -- measure 13; 139th Street Quartet
letter -- Mark IV; Future II
word -- Plus Four; "One More Song"
group of words -- "Forty-five Minutes from Broadway"

Roman numerals

Use the capital letters I, V, X, L, C, D, and M. Use Roman numerals to designate wars and to show personal sequence for people and animals.

World War II
Mark IV
Clyde Taber III
Future II committee
Trigger III

Arabic numerals

Use the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0. Use Arabic forms unless Roman numerals are specifically required as noted above.

Cardinal numbers

The figures 1, 2, 40, 73, 101, etc. and their corresponding words, one, two, forty, seventy-three, one hundred one , etc. are called cardinal numbers.

Ordinal numbers

The figures 1st, 2nd, 40th, 73rd, 101st, etc. and their corresponding words, first, second, fortieth, seventy-third, one hundred first, etc. are called ordinal numbers.

Figures or words?

For cardinal numbers, spell out whole numbers below 10; use figures for 10 and above (unless the numeral begins a sentence).

They have learned only three new songs.
The chorus has 97 members.
Ninety-seven men will appear on stage.

For ordinal numbers, spell out first through ninth when each represents sequence in time or location. Use figures starting with 10th (unless the numeral begins a sentence).

Our chorus finished in first place.
He was 15th in line.
Fifteenth was the best we could place.

Use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. when the sequence has been assigned in geographic, military, or political designations.

7th Fleet
1st Sergeant
2nd Congressional District
3rd Court of Appeals

Special cases

Act numbers -- Use figures in all cases.

Act 1, Scene 2
The first act, second scene was a classic.

Addresses -- Always use figures for an address number.

9 Morningstar Road
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Spell out and capitalize First through Ninth when used as street names. Use figures for 10th and above.

Ages -- Always use figures.

The boy is 5 years old.
The woman was a 2-month-old daughter.
The quartet has a 92-year-old tenor.

Betting odds -- Use figures separated by a hyphen.

He won, despite 9-2 odds against him.

Decades -- Use Arabic numerals to indicate decades of history.

For historical eras referred to by decades, use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out. However, do not omit numerals for ordinary years. Show plurals by adding the letter s, but with no apostrophe.

The Gay '90s
The Roaring '20s
the blizzard of '88
the Crash of '29
in the 1890s

Television channels -- Use figures.

The quartet will appear on Channel 4.

Decimal units -- Use figures.

Our last three contests have averaged 845.6 points.
Drive 8.7 miles and turn left at the barn.

Fractions -- Spell out amounts less than one, using a hyphen between the words.

two-thirds        three-quarters        four-fifths

For fractions greater than one, use figures. In addition, use a hyphen to separate the whole number from the fraction and a virgule (/) to separate the numerator from the denominator of the fraction.

1-1/4         4-3/8         10-9/16

In tabular material, use the virgule for all fractions below one as well.

Measures -- Use figures for amounts under 10 in dimensions, formulas, and speeds. Spell out numbers below 10 in distances.

This sheet music is only 8 inches by 10 inches.
He slowed down to 8 miles per hour.
He drove the van five miles with a flat tire.

Monetary units -- Spell out the word cents and use numerals for amounts less than a dollar; for amounts more than a dollar, use figures and a $ sign.

5 cents        96 cents
The tickets cost $14 each.

For specified amounts, subject-verb agreement requires that the amount be considered a single unit and thus it would take a singular verb form.

At this time, $11,000 is our target for contributions to Heartspring.

For amounts more than $1 million, use the $ sign, numerals up to two decimal places, and the word million/billion/trillion/etc. If greater accuracy is required, use figures for the entire number.

Last year, the Society raised $3.75 million for Heartspring.
The total operating budget for the Society is $4,356,900.

Page numbers -- Use figures.

page 4         page 756b

Percentages -- Use figures.

Use decimals rather than fractions for partial amounts. For amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero. Always print the full word "percent" rather than use the percent symbol (%), except in a table, a chart, or a headline.

I find that 20 percent of all leads sing flat.
There was a 0.5 percent increase in membership.
Dues went up by a staggering 35.2 percent.

Scores -- Use figures exclusively.

The tenors beat the basses 15-12 in volleyball.
The Milford Chorus received a -9 in arrangement but still managed to win the small chorus contest by a 3-point margin.

Sizes -- Use figures exclusively.

a size-9 shoe         a size-8 hat
size 40 long a 34-1/2 sleeve

Telephone/fax/numbers -- Use figures exclusively.

1-800-876-SING (7464)          FAX (414) 654-4048
(210) 555-1100 (090) 442-2388 ext. 2

Temperatures -- Use figures for all except zero.

Use a word, not the minus sign (-) for temperatures below zero. Use temperature scale designators (F for Fahrenheit, C for Celsius) only if confusion might result.

The day's low was minus 5.
The temperature rose to zero by noon.
We expect temperatures in the 30s.
(No apostrophe)

Note that temperatures get higher or lower; they don't get warmer or colder.

Incorrect         Temperatures are expected to warm up in the area on Friday.
Correct         Temperatures are expected to rise in the area on Friday.

Years -- Use figures without commas.

Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries.

1975        the 1990s

Note that years are the single exception to the rule that numerals should not be used to start a sentence.

1976 was our Bicentennial year.

Casual expressions -- Spell out numerals used in casual expressions.

A thousand times no!
Thanks a million.
He walked a quarter of a mile.


back to Index

back to Aids for Bulletin Editors