Proper use of numbers:


Is it necessary to use a comma when stating 4,000 in a literary piece? Or is 4000 acceptable?

How should this be stated? In her thirties, in her 30's or in her thirty's?

asked Jul 19 '12 at 21:36 darlene berwick New member

1 answer


Both of your questions are a matter of style and not grammar. The answer depends upon what style standards your publisher (or teacher) has adopted. My answer here is based upon the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, 2010). It is not the only style guide available, but it is comprehensive and has been adopted by many American publishers.


For the numbers 0-99 and larger round numbers that can be expressed in two words (a hyphenated number, twenty-five, is considered one word), the number should be spelled out -- four thousand.


Where the number does not meet the general rule, the number should include commas -- 4,233 (there are exceptions to this rule for certain technical writings).


CMOS (and most other style guides) urge consistency in the immediate context (usually the same paragraph). When you have a mixture of small, round numbers (usually spelled out) and large numbers (normally with numerals), all numbers in the immediate context should be numerals (with commas). The only exception to this rule is -- never start a sentence with numerals, always spell it out regardless of how the rest of the context is styled.


Chicago prefers to spell out the names of decades, whether deades or age or date -- thirties. However, Chicago accepts 30s with the caution that it is considered informal. In either case, the decade is not a possessive, so apostrophre + s is not used. It is a plural where only "s" is added. Not thirty's or 30's, but thirties and 30s.


The other major American style manuals offer similar advice on all points except which numbers should be spelled out and which are written with numerals. One manual calls for 0-20, another calls for 0-10, while others agree with Chicago.


I hope this helps.

link comment answered Jul 19 '12 at 23:08 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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