*The Manila Times*way back in 2003. I am posting it in the Forum to help people who don’t have or aren’t obliged to follow any stylebook yet to be more systematic in dealing with numbers and time in their written work.

**The grammar of numbers and time**

*eight*red shirts and

*five*blue ones, but returned

*three*browns”; and (2) numbers from 11 upwards in a sentence should be written in figures: “The professor discovered to her dismay that

*12*of her pupils were absent, and that

*546*of the entire student population did not make it to their classes either.” And if perchance the sentence has numbers ranging from 1 to any number higher than 10, the two rules above still hold even if it means mixing figures and spelled-out numbers: “We counted a total of

*800*words in her essay and found

*ten*misspelled words and 17 wrong word choices.”

There are just two notable exceptions to these rules. First, any number that starts a sentence should be written in words: “Thirteen is considered an unlucky number by some people.” “Four hundred eighty-two years ago, a Portuguese explorer stumbled on a group of islands on the Pacific and named it the Archipelago of St. Lazarus.” Second, when numbers are used to list a series of items within a sentence, all such numbers should be written as figures (or digits) even for numbers below 11: “These are the 14 reasons why I won’t live in your city: (1) the traffic is horrible, (2) the overcrowding is simply too much, (3) the cost of living is too high, and… (14) it gets so cold there in winter.”

We have to take up just three more important rules about writing numbers before we close: (1) We should use figures and not spell out numbers immediately before a unit of measure: “a 10-minute wait,” “a 3-3/4 cm. length of tape,” “16 Megahertz on the FM band”; (2) We should use figures and not spell out numbers that represent statistical or mathematical functions or formulas: “divided by 6,” multiplied by 9,” “a ratio of 50:1,” “8% bigger”; and (3) We should use figures and not spell out numbers that represent time, ages, money, sizes, scores, and points on a scale: “at 12 midnight,” “4 years old,” “$9,” “5 cm. x 12 cm.,” “73:69,” and “Intensity 5 on the Richter Scale.”

We use numbers all the time in our lives, so it pays to do our numbers right. (November 12, 2003)

*From the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in*The Manila Times

*, November 12, 2003 issue © 2003 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. This essay later became Chapter 129 of the book*Give Your English the Winning Edge

*©2009 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.*