The Page a Day Writers Group

It’s a Numbers Game

Posted on: October 4, 2011

I’m a journalist by trade. Alongside grammar spelling, punctuation, my J-school professors spent hours instilling proper writing styles and guidelines. There was a style and/or a guideline for everything from titles and temperatures to numerals and nobility. If in doubt – no problem – just flip a couple of pages in the AP Stylebook and presto, the answer appears.

It’s not so easy when you’re writing a novel. There is no universal stylebook. Both pursuits use words as their primary tools, but that’s pretty much where the similarities cease. You won’t see an inverted pyramid in fiction. Most magazine articles don’t build a story world. Various opinions exist about series commas and as far as writing numbers exist, all bets are off.

Ultimately your publisher will issue a “stylebook” listing their preferences, or so I’m told. Until I reach that point, however, this underpublished novelist is combing through novels and asking advice from writer friends. Here’s what I’ve pieced together. Feel free to add, correct or compliment as necessary.

Spell out:

Whole numbers under 100: not just zero to nine (as we newspaper types were taught). Fifteen. Sixty-six.

If you have a mixed numbers in a sentence, use numerals for both. Mary had 43 Facebook friends, but Ramona had 443.

Fractions. Four-fifths. Three-ninths.

Ordinal numbers under 100: Fifth. Twenty-third.

Time: Two o’clock in the morning. Three-fifteen in the afternoon.

Money: Forty-three dollars

Dates: August 9, 1980

Percent: Fifty-five percent. Nine percent.

Addresses: 456 Sesame Street.

For more on writing numbers, check out Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips.

–Claire Yezbak Fadden

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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