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Thread: Numbers/Spelling

  1. #1
    Member k3ng's Avatar
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    Jan 2005
    Hollywood, CA. Amidst the music.
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    I'm sure there has been a post like this before, but the search fails me.

    What's your take on numbers in your writing? Numerals vs spelling?

    13 vs thirteen?

    When I was young I was always given the notion that 'proper' writing spelled out the numbers because numerals aren't 'words'. This concept has remained in my mind for many years and till today I remain absolutely unsure of the proper approach to using numbers in writing.

    And then I googled this site -

    That actually seems really really anal to me. How much of it do you follow? Does writing numbers come naturally to you or do you actively check your consistency or check if they follow said 'rules'?

    I'm trying to keep some form of consistency in my writing when it comes to numbers. As simple as it may seem, it has been a problem for me for some time now.
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  2. #2
    The Grammar Book site advice is generally accepted today. Many people, however, spell out 'ten' and begin numerals with 11.

    For a more traditional approach, see Fowler, 3rd ed. (Burchfield editor - Clarendon Press - 1996) p. 535

    I quit worrying about such details a long time ago. I do follow a set standard, mostly of my own making, when it comes to such details, but the truth is that once you are well enough established with certain publishers, their copy editors will change whatever needs to be changed to fit house rules. The only point I ever insist on is that the Oxford comma never be omitted.
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  3. #3
    Honoured/Sadly Missed The Backward OX's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    Up the Creek without a paddle, Queensland, Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by garza View Post
    The only point I ever insist on is that the Oxford comma never be omitted.
    With respect, the Oxford comma is about as useful as the Greengrocer's apostrophe.

  4. #4
    Two different situations. The greengrocers' apostrophe is plainly an error caused by ignorance of the proper use of the apostrophe.

    Consider, however, the case of a person who knows nothing of the geography or political alignment of the Caribbean. Suppose that person reads an article that talks about happenings in Belize, St Vincent,Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. That person would no doubt assume that Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are three separate countries and would probably fault the writer for an excessive number of 'ands'. Putting a comma before the last 'and' clarifies the situation and lets the reader know that Trinidad and Tobago, though separate islands, are two parts of a single political unit.

    See Fowler, 3rd ed. (Burchfield editor - Clarendon Press - 1996) p. 162 paragraph 4.

    A first edition 'Fowler's Modern English Usage' and a copy of 'Hart's Rules' were the first two books on writing I ever owned, dug out of a box of old books a neighbour was throwing out when I was about ten years old. Those two, along with a third edition 'Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English' from the same box got me through high school and into university. I now use the ninth edition 'Concise' and the third edition 'Fowler's'. They continue to serve me well.
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