A Hacksaw to the Ear

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.


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!

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to provide writers a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded nine patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."