How should I write out numbers when writing fiction pieces?

I've always wondered when I write novellas or something of that nature, should I type out numbers as numerals rather than words? For examples, 

 "What am I, 12?" vs What am I, twelve?"  or "I get paid 500 bucks just to babysit my neighbor!" vs "I get paid five-hundred bucks just to babysit my neighbor!"

10 Answers

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  • 1 month ago

    They're generally all spelled out, not reduced to the numbers like 124 or such.

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  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    Whatever your publisher's style guide says to do. If you're self-publishing, just pick a style (such as the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style) and stick to it throughout the book. The exception would be if you have some reason relevant to the plot or characterization to have one character or another (say, a superstitious or synaesthetic character who's fascinated with numbers) always use digits rather than words for numbers.

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  • Speed
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    The rule for journalism (write out only one through ten) is not the rule for books, at least in the US. Many publishers use the Chicago Manual of Style as their basis for house style, which addresses questions like this.

    CMOS wants numbers written out as words. We've moved recently and I can't lay my hands on the book, but IIRC, when you get to four figures you can switch to digits.

    You'd write that Joe had four cups of coffee before eleven a.m., weighed one hundred eighty-one pounds, and bought a car for twenty-six thousand dollars. Joe was disappointed that it got only 18.67 miles to the gallon, though.

    So your examples would be: "What am I, twelve?" and "I get paid five hundred bucks just to babysit my neighbor."

    There are rules about hyphenating numbers. Hyphenate two-word numbers between twenty and ninety-nine, including as a portion of a larger number, i.e. one thousand sixty-three, except in time, when there's no hyphen between the hour and the minutes. So lose that hyphen after hundred.

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  • Logan
    Lv 4
    1 month ago

    The rule is you write every number up to ten as letters and the others are written with numbers.

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  • Cogito
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    I don't know what's the rule in the USA, but journalistic style in the UK has always been that numbers one to ten are written as words, while 11 and over are written in figures.  

    There are a number of exceptions, for example if someone says, "I'm a hundred percent sure," or "I won a million pounds on the Lotto," when it's exact sums of money (£10.50) or temperatures (5 degrees) etc, house numbers (like 25 High Street), weights when a 'point' is used, like 5.5 kilos - etcetera.

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  • David
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    According to strict rules of formality, you're supposed to write out numbers as words, from "zero" to "ninety-nine."  But, starting with "100" and above, you're expected to write them out as digits.  I've bent that rule, now and then.

    The Master of Perception: http://tiolibooks.com/cgi-bin/blog

    Catch a Falling Star: http://tiolibooks.com/blank_1.html

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  • Athena
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    That would depend on your audience.

    A YA story it would be fine to use numbers.

    If you are writing for adults then treat them like adults and spell it out.

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  • 1 month ago

    My old school thoughts [spell out one through ten] seem wrong now, but then again there are no hard and fast rules. Google how to write out numbers.  [I would still say "I have one child with ten fingers" as opposed to "1 child and 10 fingers."]  500 bucks is fine. {You have latitude as an author.} "So what am I, 12? would be good.

    Source(s): note: 2 thumbs down came from my first answer, but after that ...
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  • Andrew
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Generally, the digits 1 - 10 are expressed as numerals and numbers greater than 10 are expressed in words. Why? Well, because that's been the convention for many years as it's thought that numbers with a value of ten and under are the most commonly used in pieces of writing (other than specific cases like the use of years, etc.), so people tend to stick to that rule. Read a few books and you'll see that most authors who write fiction tend to follow that rule of thumb. Of course, zero is always written out to distinguish it from the letter "O", but when it appears next to another numeral, it's fine. We're talking about cardinal numbers here. Ordinal numbers are almost always written out long-hand. Nobody uses "1st", "2nd", "3rd", and "4th" in their writing - ordinal numbers are always expressed using words except when they're being used to refer to something specific like a street name (6th Street), or when they're referring to a person, in which case Roman Numerals are often used (Henry VIII.) 

    So, to answer your question definitively, it would be:

    "What am I, twelve?" 

    and 

    "I get paid 500 bucks..." 

  • 1 month ago

    It should be written except in the case of when a character is reading printed material that would be expressed in numerals.

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