Numbers: Numerals or spelled out?

Subject: Numbers: Numerals or spelled out?
From: John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 6 Jan 1996 15:46:00 PST

>Greetings Folks: I have a question about the use of numerals. I
>understand that style rules say spell out whole numbers between zero
>and nine and use numerals for 10 and above. But what if the number is
>linked to a particular measurement, like miles, cubic inches, etc.?
>Some style guides say always use numerals for certain specific
>measurements, others don't address it. I think writing "a
>1-cubic-inch tube" or "a 3-mile-radius" looks funny. What is the
>consensus out there?

I like the general rule "Spell out numbers of less than two digits" -- and I
include significant digits (expressed or implied). So if I am writing about
a measurement where I might have had to say 1.01 cubic inches I use numerals
-- even if the measurement actually turned out to be 1.00 cubic inches,
which some would express as a one-cubic-inch.

So even though some would express a measured quanity as "one cubic inch" I
stick to 1.00 (or even 1 cubic inch) because I feel that (as a reader) when
I see "one cubic inch" I think that's a nominal value ... like the
proverbial "give them an inch."

It's not the issue of the trailing units with me -- it's the precision. I'm
perfectly happy writing "2 hours" *and* "two hours" depending on what I
mean. "2 hours" means 2.0 hours (measured); two hours is what I use in
sentences like "it takes about two hours" ....

John Gear (catalyst -at- pacifier -dot- com)

The Bill of Rights -- The ORIGINAL Contract with America
Beware of Imitations. Accept No Substitutes. Insist on the Genuine Articles.

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