Re: Numerals vs. Spelled-Out Numbers

Subject: Re: Numerals vs. Spelled-Out Numbers
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 12:03:15 -0800

At 02:35 PM 3/5/97 -0500, Michael Barwick wrote:
>..."Rule 1. Write out all numbers below 10." ...
>three French hens, two turtle doves...but others at my
>company think the rules change when content moves to
>the Web and/or marketing copy doesn't have to follow the rules.

The Chicago Manual of Style goes on for several pages on whether to
spell out numbers or not. It recommends that numbers from one to
ninety-nine be spelled out, *unless* they are related to mathematical,
statistical, technical, or scientific text (distances, lengths,
volumes, measures -- so 4 inches and 8-point type ).

Then it starts on the exceptions:

* Newspaper style only spells out one thru ten

* Like numbers (same category, same context) should
be treated alike (5 of this, 147 of that)

* Numbers should be spelled out at the beginning of
a sentence

* Spell out large numbers if they're approximations

Reading the entire section will convince you that there is no single
rule to follow.

Remember, too, that our MarCom collegues often use the Associated
Press style guide or something similar, rather than Chicago or
The Elements of Technical Writing. Actually, sometimes our MarCom
collegues follow no guidelines at all. ;-) It's OK that, on some
of these things, tech doc and marketing materials don't agree.

In practical application, most members of our target audiences will
not notice or care whether a number is spelled out or not, as long
as it gets the point across. They're used to seeing it both ways
because of the rule's many exceptions.

I can think of lots of great arguments to get into with the MarCom
people, but I'm not sure this is one of them.

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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