Writing numbers: words and numerals

Numbers can be written either as words (e.g., one hundred) or numerals (e.g., 100). In this article we follow the guidelines of APA Style, one of the most common style guides used in academic writing.

In general, words should be used for numbers from zero through nine, and numerals should be used from 10 onwards. This is true for both cardinal numbers (e.g., two, 11) and ordinal numbers (e.g., second, 11th). However, there are some important exceptions to this rule.

Note that other style guides, such as Chicago Style, address numbers differently (for example, in Chicago, you use words for numbers up to 100). Regardless of what style guide you follow, the most important thing is to be consistent in how you treat numbers throughout your document.

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Using abbreviations and acronyms

An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase that is usually made by deleting certain letters. In the following sentence, everything underlined is an abbreviation:

Dr. Jones, who’s currently undertaking research on DNA, can’t attend the WHO conference being held in the US in Oct. 2016.

Not all of the abbreviations used in this example have the same look and feel. This is because while Dr. and Oct. are general abbreviations, who’s and can’t are contractions and DNA, WHO, and US are acronyms. In academic writing, contractions should be avoided, but acronyms are commonly used.

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