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A Hacksaw to the Ear

When to Spell Out Numbers In Sentences

It all happens so fast. If you remember, we ended last week with everything suspended: Criss on the side of the Chrysler Building, David upside down, handcuffed in a shark tank. But the crowd has now turned back to me, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, to hear the rest of my story on how to write numbers.


Desperate to wrest back the crowd’s attention, Criss jumps down and slaps a spectator’s head under a guillotine! David nails his own hand to a door with an icepick! But to no avail (maybe a little avail, but not much), because I just keep pouring it on!




use words for numbers at the beginning of a sentence, including a date:


Nineteen sixty-eight was the height of student migration to the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale during Spring Break.

Eleven hundred twenty-nine students that year were arrested and jailed during the riots.


hyphenate numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine, but only those numbers:


one hundred eighty-three


place a comma after the year, but only if the day appears after the month:


We will wait till October 14, 2015, to begin.

But: We will wait till 14 October 2015 to begin.

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use the numeral with the word percent unless in a technical piece; then use the numeral with the symbol %.


But 7 percent voted no.

Mix a 7% solution with . . . .


spell the number if you spell the currency:


twenty-five dollars


write the numeral if you use the symbol:






NOT add the numeral in parentheses after we have written the number in words (lawyers pay close attention):


seven thousand nine hundred fifty-two (7,952).


NOT use ordinal numbers in dates unless “of” appears between the day and the month:


8 May, or May 8, or the 8th of May


but not May 8th, or 8th May


NOT place an apostrophe before the “s” in a plural year or century:


the 1960s, or the 1800s


NOT capitalize a century:


the twentieth century, or the 20th century.




replace the century with an apostrophe:


the Class of ’64.


Wait, what's happening? That last one apparently has pushed the crowd to the edge of hysteria! Excuse me, I have a crisis on my hands! David, please, drop the hacksaw! Leave your ear alone! I'm finished! You may have your audience back!

What if you had an in-house editor at your fingertips?

WordRake enables you to create precise, highly polished writing.

It’s easy! Try it now.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

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How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.