Writing Tip Wednesday: APA Numbers

Dear Master’s Programs Student,

If you are even remotely acquainted with APA style and formatting, you know that there are scores of (sometimes arcane) rules, exceptions to the rules, and exceptions to the exceptions.  This week, I’ll clarify the rules on formatting of numbers.APA Numbers

Rule 1: The inviolable rule is to spell out all numbers that start a sentence, heading, or title.  For example:  Twelve people now comprise the Pritchett-Dunphy-Delgado-Tucker family now that Fulgencio has entered the world.

[“Twelve” would normally be given in numerals since it is a number greater than nine; see Rule #3.]

Rule 2:  The following should be given as numerals:

  • numbers that precede a unit of measurement (e.g. 10 kilometers, 17 grams);
  • numbers that represent mathematical functions, percentages, or decimals (e.g. 4 times as many students, 23%, 0.55); and
  • numbers that represent time, ages, dates, or exact monetary sums (e.g. 3 hrs 9 min, 4-year-olds, $19,460)

This rule is superseded by Rule 1.  So a percentage that begins a sentence would still be given this way: “Forty-four percent of the students showed a moderate improvement, and 15% of the survey population showed a significant improvement.”

[Note that “Forty-four percent” is spelled out since it heads the sentence, but “15%” is mid-sentence and follows rule 2.]

Rule 3: Numbers zero to nine are spelled out as words; numbers 10 and above are given in numeric form.

For example: Seven of Man Men’s nine writers are women.

After seven seasons and 138 episodes, 30 Rock aired its final show . Blerg.

Remember that Rule #3 is overridden by Rule #2 (which is overridden by Rule #1).

Happy Writing!



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