Friday, July 5, 2013

Punctuation 101: Numbers

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

It's time for another installment of Punctuation 101 with your host, Jill Williamson. Today, we are talking numbers!


Numbers can be written two ways: spelled out in letters (two) or written in numerals (2). The rules are: Spell out numbers one through one hundred. Spell out rounded numbers (hundreds, millions). Spell out numbers in reference to age. Spell out all numbers that begin a sentence. Use numerals (1234) for all other numbers.

Michael crouched down. “There are millions of ants here!”

“I need fifty copies of the flyer,” Megan said.

“I need 2,500 copies of the flyer,” Megan said.

“She’s ninety-six years old!”

“One, I can’t understand why you hate me. And, two, I don’t like you either.”


Always spell out the time of day unless you’re referring to the exact time.

Drew went to bed at five o’clock exhausted from the tournament.

“Mom slept in and I missed my nine-thirty dentist appointment.”

“I get to church way early because the Sunday bus goes by my house at 7:10.”

“Class starts directly at 8:35 tomorrow morning. Don’t be late!”


Dates are written with numerals. Do not write August 1st. The correct methods are:

August 1.

“On January 1, 2000, there were no major fallouts due to the new millennium.”

“The photograph is copyright April 1942.”

On 5 February, 1903 Mario and his family arrived in America.

When a day is mentioned without the month or year, spell out the number.

“By the fifteenth, finals will be over and we can focus on the Christmas holidays!”

There are TONS of rules for punctuation and grammar. If you're serious about writing, get yourself a grammar reference book. I recommend: Strunk, White, and Angell’s Elements of Style; O’Conner’s Woe Is I: A Grammaphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English; two books by Bill Walsh, Elephants of Style and Lapsing Into a Comma; as well as Cochrane and Humphry’s Between You and I: A Little Book of Bad English.

Or, if you want to be really thorough, get a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style if you are writing novels. This book has all the rules you never wanted to know. If you are writing articles for newspapers or magazines, get a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook, as the rules are different for articles.

I'm pretty sure that this ends my Punctuation 101 posts. I'm sure there is something out there that I missed. If you can think of something, I'd be happy to research the rules and write a post about it. Let me know in the comments.


  1. I'd always wondered about ages...thank you!! These have been very informative AND interesting posts, Ms. Williamson :) Like I've said before, if only you'd written my English book--things would've made so much more sense ;)

  2. Thank you!! All of your punctuation posts have been really helpful! I will definitely refer back to them :)

  3. Note to self: buy Chicago Manual of Style. So many rules they don't bother teaching us in school!!!

  4. Oh I've always wondered about these! Question though, why don't you write, "August 1st"?

    1. I've always found it really annoying that the industry standard is August 1. It looks weird, I agree, but that's just the way they do things.

  5. I'm so thankful that as a homeschooler I got to take English courses that focused hugely on correct grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. (One thing they didn't teach us was how to write colorfully, but whatever. That was what Writing 121 was for, I guess. . . .) But I still find these posts helpful, Jill! Thank you :)

  6. Yep, had no idea when to use what (I confess to being interchangeable for the numbers). I always fell over when I had to write something like: "two 10 kilometre runs" or "2 ten kilometres runs" or "two ten kilometres runs". Heh.

  7. Thanks Jill! I've always wondered how you're supposed to do numbers. I would always guess, but now I don't have to! Yay!

  8. I was writing my resume the other day and asked this question. So, just to clarify -- if I want to write that I'm in year eleven, I should spell the word, not write the number? Cheers!

  9. I got the Strunk and White book for Christmas last year. I haven't really gotten to reading it until recently but I'm glad I have it. I only read a little of it and I learned gobs of information! I recommend it highly.