Those Pesky Number Rules

Have you ever been confused about how to write numbers in a sentence or paragraph? To be honest with you, this has confused me at times. We all have strong and weaker points. This is my weaker point, so I have to occasionally pull out a reference book to help. One of my favorite resources is a classic book, Polishing Your Pugs by Kathy Ide. This is an excellent resource and can be purchased on sites such as

In today’s Tuesday Tip, I share three number rules.
Today’s material is excerpted from Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling by Kathy Ide (pages 65-67). It is only a fraction of the information you’ll gain from this excellent resource.

1. Spell out whole numbers

Spell out whole numbers one through one hundred, round numbers, numbers referring to someone’s age, and any number beginning a sentence. Use numerals for all other numbers.


“We need fifty thousand copies of the book by May.”

“If three more people sign up, I will need 121 copies of the handout.”

“Nineteen eighty-seven was the year we met.”

“Nathan was fifty-three years old when he sold his first novel.”

2. Always use numerals with percentages.


“Only 2 percent of the local population use a Bible.”

3. Simplify numbers if you need to.

If several references to numbers appear in the same paragraph, you may treat them all alike to simplify the reader’s comprehension. However, with similar items in a single sentence or paragraph, you may use both numerals and words.

“I’ve compiled a collection of short stories — one with 115 words, five with about 75 words each, and ten with only 1 or 2 paragraphs.”

“Between 1,950 and 2,000 people attended the writers’ conference.”

Your Turn

Build your library with books that help you in your weaker areas. If you struggle with number rules, then purchase Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling by Kathy Ide. For more great resources, check out the COMPEL Resource Library like a punctuation cheat sheet.


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