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 and straitjacketed, in a shark-infested 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.

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

WE MUST:

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 %:

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:

£475

WE MUST:

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.

WE MAY:

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, 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 seven patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."