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Old 09-29-2012, 07:23 PM   #1
VydorScope
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Numbers verses words...

In a fiction novel,

"10,000 years ago stuff happened that was really funny."

Vs.

"Ten thousand years ago stuff happened that was really funny."


Which is correct, and what is the rule?
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Old 09-29-2012, 09:59 PM   #2
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matter of preference, no? how can a number or a spelling of the number be wrong?

and isn't it "versus"?
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:38 PM   #3
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I thought that the rule/guideline/advice was that in prose numbers should be written as words not numerals - words keep the reader flowing with the prose, numerals break them out. This rule is usually tempered by practicalities: years written in numerals (1969, or '69), and longer/complicated or exact numbers are often provided as numerals (12,364 or 354.12). The numeral version of these is generally easier for a reader to take in than the long-winded word version.

To take up your example, I would have said that "ten thousand years ago" version was the more typical (and IMO better) choice in most situations. If, however, some precise history was being given then "10,234 years ago" might be the better option (than "ten thousand, two hundred and thirty four years ago").

I've read such advice simplified down to: if you can write the number in two or three words then use words, otherwise use numerals.
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:49 PM   #4
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The "official" version I remember from school is that you spell out any number less than a thousand. Once you hit four digits, then you can leave it as a number.
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Old 09-29-2012, 11:26 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
I thought that the rule/guideline/advice was that in prose numbers should be written as words not numerals - words keep the reader flowing with the prose, numerals break them out. This rule is usually tempered by practicalities: years written in numerals (1969, or '69), and longer/complicated or exact numbers are often provided as numerals (12,364 or 354.12). The numeral version of these is generally easier for a reader to take in than the long-winded word version.

To take up your example, I would have said that "ten thousand years ago" version was the more typical (and IMO better) choice in most situations. If, however, some precise history was being given then "10,234 years ago" might be the better option (than "ten thousand, two hundred and thirty four years ago").

I've read such advice simplified down to: if you can write the number in two or three words then use words, otherwise use numerals.
Agreed.
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:27 AM   #6
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Thanks! I will go with ten thousand.
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Old 09-30-2012, 07:39 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Namekuseijin View Post
matter of preference, no? how can a number or a spelling of the number be wrong?

and isn't it "versus"?

A Grammar Dude comments:


"Versus is first recorded in English, in a legal context, in the mid-fifteenth century. It is frequently abbreviated, as you say, to v., but ver. and vs. are also found. In fact, vs. is the only abbreviation in the supporting citations in the Oxford English Dictionary. The extent to which it might be advisable to use the full form will depend on the formality of the document in which it appears, but v. should be appropriate in many cases. It is, for example, found in the titles of law suits."





Don
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Old 09-30-2012, 03:01 PM   #8
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This is basically an editorial choice. I have two different editions of the same book, one of which writes times as number (eg "3:30") and the other as words ("half-past three"). There really is no right or wrong.
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Old 09-30-2012, 03:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
This is basically an editorial choice. I have two different editions of the same book, one of which writes times as number (eg "3:30") and the other as words ("half-past three"). There really is no right or wrong.
Translation: Do what ever you want and let your editor figure out what to do with the mess! Got, my kind of answer!
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Old 10-02-2012, 10:57 AM   #10
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I usually stick with my personal rule of whole numbers of 20 and under gets spelled out, the rest are numerical, unless it can can be easily spelled out and kept consistent.

'Three hundred/Ten thousand/A million others tried it before him" is good.
"Three hundred out of the 1,470" is a no.
"He looked up the price of nineteen ninety nine" is also a no.
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Old 10-02-2012, 11:04 AM   #11
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I would go with text. Flows better, and you don't end up with errors as the one I wrote in my masters thesis "3.000.000 million".
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Old 10-02-2012, 12:40 PM   #12
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I personally go with text. (I write fantasy novels) Numerals look out of place and jar the reader out of the story.
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Old 10-02-2012, 03:30 PM   #13
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What I have done in the past is big round numbers like "ten thousand" are spelled out, but something precise like "Set heading to 197 mark 5" or "Use 10.758 grams of stuff" are numeric.

Just dunno what "right" is for this. Went with "ten thousand years" in this case though for now.
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Old 10-02-2012, 04:39 PM   #14
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It feels wrong to me to begin a sentence with digits.
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Old 10-02-2012, 06:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
It feels wrong to me to begin a sentence with digits.


Interesting.. so

"It had been 10,000 years since..."

is good but

"10,000 years ago..."

is not, to you?
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