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McGraw-Hill/Irwin Business English at Work, 3/e. © 2007 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. Chapter 18. Numbers. Objectives. Identify appropriate times to use words versus figures in expressing numbers. Differentiate between cardinal and ordinal numbers.

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Business English at Work, 3/e

© 2007 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Chapter 18


  • Identify appropriate times to use words versus figures in expressing numbers.
  • Differentiate between cardinal and ordinal numbers.
  • Use numbers with addresses, ages, and dates correctly.
  • Use numbers in decimals, fractions, measurements, identification numbers, and financial quotes correctly.

PP 18-1a



  • Use numbers in amounts of money and percentages correctly.
  • Use numbers correctly in political divisions, publications, ratios, titles, inclusive sets of figures, and sizes.
  • Use numbers in telephone numbers, temperatures, time, and time periods correctly.

PP 18-1b

numbers 1 10 numbers over 10
Numbers 1-10; Numbers Over 10

Use words to express numbers one through ten.

I had two problems downloading the software from the Internet.

Use figures to express numbers over ten.

The online office supply store delivers 200 orders a day.

PP 18-2

approximate numbers
Approximate Numbers

Express approximate numbers from one through ten in words.

About five online booksellers are profitable.

Express approximate numbers over ten in figures.

More than 50 dry cleaners have Web pages.

PP 18-3

related numbers
Related Numbers

Adopt a consistent style for writing related numbers in a sentence. When related numbers, both above and below ten are used in the same sentence, express all related numbers in figures.

Do not express numbers ten and below in figures if the other numbers in the sentence are not related.

PP 18-4a

related numbers1
Related Numbers



The Gap recently hired 5 sales associates in Littleton, 3 in Anchorage, and 12 in San Francisco.

Out of the 20 self-appraisal evaluations distributed, only 5 were returned by the deadline.

Even though we have over 800 employees, we only employ 2 people in public relations.

PP 18-4b

cardinal and ordinal numbers














2nd or 2d



Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

Write cardinal numbers as follows:

Write ordinal numbers as follows. The ordinal numbers are used to show the order of succession.

PP 18-5

commas in numbers
Commas in Numbers

Use commas to set off a whole number with five or more digits in three-digit groups beginning at the right.

13,987 243,788 7,893,283

Omit the comma in a whole number with only four digits.

2000 7500 3250

PP 18-6a

commas in numbers1
Commas in Numbers


Use the comma if a number with only four digits is used in conjunction with numbers of five digits or more; for example, in a column.




PP 18-6b


Use figures with abbreviations.

No. 2 pencil Bldg. 11 Fig. 23 65 mph

3 in 2/10,n/30 20 m 15 gal

PP 18-7

house and building numbers
House and Building Numbers

Write house and building numbers in figures except for those identified as One.

Do not use commas in house or building numbers.

135 Alana Way Building 119B

1821 ½ Lakeville 11422 Old Redwood Road

One Ward Parkway

PP 18-8

street addresses
Street Addresses

Use words (ordinal format) to express street names that contain the numbers 1-10.

25 Sixth Street 3902 Tenth Street

Use figures (ordinal format) to express numbered street names above 10.

384 101th Street 3489 South 73d Avenue

PP 18-9

highway numbers zip codes
Highway Numbers/ZIP Codes

Use figures to identify highway numbers.

Pacific Coast Highway 1 Interstate 10

Route 66 Old County Route 13

Use figures for all ZIP Codes.

Do not use commas with ZIP Codes.

Redding, CA 96001 Buffalo, NY 14201-4732

PP 18-10

miscellaneous address numbers
Miscellaneous Address Numbers

Use figures for suite numbers, mailstop codes, and post office box numbers. Use exact user designed e-mail addresses.

Suite 105, Tribune Building

P.O. Box 3879 or Post Office Box 3879

MSC 38

PP 18-11

general age precise age
General Age/Precise Age

Use words to indicate general age.

My son was six when he started using the Internet.

People in their eighties typically do not trade stocks online.

Use figures to express age when the age appears immediately after the person’s name or when the age is expressed in years, months, and days.

Adam Carston, 31, is our Webmaster.

The average length of employment for our staff is 5 years 3 months.

PP 18-12

legal age
Legal Age

Use figures to express legal age.

You may receive a provisional driving permit if you are under 18 but at least 15 years of age.

If you were born before 1938 and you meet all other requirements, you can receive social security benefits beginning with the first full month that you are age 62.

PP 18-13

emphasis on age
Emphasis on Age

Use figures to emphasize age in general correspondence.

The bank offers a special savings account for 10- to 17-year old children.

PP 18-14

anniversaries and birthdays
Anniversaries and Birthdays

Spell out ordinal numbers to express anniversaries that contain one or two words. (A hyphenated ordinal number counts as one word.)

Use ordinal numbers in figures to express anniversaries that contain more than two words.

the company’s fifth anniversary

Julie’s twenty-fifth birthday

the city’s 125th anniversary

PP 18-15

adjacent numbers
Adjacent Numbers

Use a comma to separate adjacent numbers in a sentence when both figures are numbers or both are words.

By the year 2008, 75 percent of American households will have computers.

PP 18-16

beginning of a sentence
Beginning of a Sentence

Use words to express numbers that begin a sentence.

Use hyphens with the numbers 21 through 99 expressed in words.

Reword the sentence if the beginning number consists of more than two words A hyphenated word counts as one word.

Seventy-three orders were the result of our Web banner advertisements.

PP 18-17

consecutive numbers
Consecutive Numbers

Generally, use words for the first number in consecutive numbers when one of the two numbers is part of a compound modifier.

Four 37-cent stamps five 10-page reports

Use figures for the first of the consecutive numbers if the second number is shorter than the first when written out.

300 first-time orders 67 one-page memos

PP 18-18

months days and years
Months, Days, and Years

Use cardinal numbers to express dates in month-day, month-year, or month-day-year order.

Use commas to separate the year from the month and day.

All entries must be postmarked by June 30, 2007, to be eligible for the drawing.

Do not use commas to separate a month and year when used without the day.

The October 2005 issue is about e-commerce.

PP 18-19

military and foreign
Military and Foreign

Use cardinal numbers to express dates associated with military or foreign correspondence.

Write dates in day, month, year sequence.

Do not separate with commas.

4 July 2007 29 December 2008

PP 18-20

days before month days alone
Days Before Month, Days Alone

Use ordinal numbers when the day comes before the month or stands alone and the emphasis in the sentence is on the figure.

Use ordinal words when the purpose of the writing is more formal. The intent of the sentence determines the use of figures or words.

Our online site will be available by the 5th of February.

We anticipate an answer by the 31st.

You are cordially invited to our first anniversary celebration on the first day of March 2006.

PP 18-21

legal documents
Legal Documents

Use ordinal words to express dates appearing in legal documents.

April nineteenth


the nineteenth day of April

WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and seal the twenty-third day of September, in the year two thousand six.

PP 18-22

decades and centuries
Decades and Centuries

Use words or figures to express decades.

the 1980s the eighties the ’80s

during the years 2000-2010

Use words or figures to express centuries.

the 1900s the twenty-first century

PP 18-23

writing decimals using zeros
Writing Decimals, Using Zeros

Use figures to express decimals.

2.478 488.3 49.3889

Place a zero before the decimal point if the decimal appears by itself.

0.08 0.00478 0.73

PP 18-24

aligning figures financial quotes
Aligning Figures, Financial Quotes

Align figures at the decimal point. Add a zero or zeros at the end of a decimal to justify a column of figures on the right.

8.7 38.48 5.000

148.9 3.90 15.400


Use figures to express financial quotes.

Our company stock was up 3/8 and closed at 67.

PP 18-25


Use words to express fractions that stand alone.

Use a hyphen between the numerator (top number in a fraction) and denominator (bottom number in a fraction).

one-half of our online orders

one-third of the questions

one-fourth of a newsletter

PP 18-26

fractions in measurements
Fractions in Measurements

Use figures to express fractions in measurements.

Do not use an “of” phrase after fractions written in figures.

Write out the fraction in words if an “of” phrase must follow the fraction.

Do not use st, ds, or ths after fractions expressed in numbers.

PP 18-27a

fractions in measurements1
Fractions in Measurements



1/8 ounce or one-eighth of an ounce

1/2 pound or one-half of a pound

PP 18-27b

fractions and whole numbers
Fractions and Whole Numbers

Use figures when a fraction is written with a whole number.

Do not use a hyphen between the whole number and the fraction.

3 ½ hours early

7 ¼ pages

PP 18-28

identification numbers
Identification Numbers

Use figures to identify forms or items such as form numbers, model numbers, serial numbers, policy numbers, and invoice numbers.

Do not use commas to separate the digits. The abbreviation No. is not necessary with most items identified by number if the item is preceded by a descriptive noun.

Form 1060 Model 389-Z3

Policy 3774737 Item 478283-C

Invoice 4783 Chapter XI

PP 18-29a

identification numbers1
Identification Numbers


  • Follow the style of the source. Some serial numbers are written with hyphens, spaces, or other devices.

Patent No. 111,783

Social Security No. 378-49-2988

PP 18-29b

indefinite numbers
Indefinite Numbers

Use words to express indefinite numbers and amounts. Indefinite numbers are not easily counted or determined.

many hundreds of orders dozens of calls

several thousand requests hundreds of dollars

a few hundred responses millions of people

PP 18-30

large numbers
Large Numbers

Use a combination of figures and words to express numbers in the millions or above. If several large numbers appear in a sentence, be consistent in the format.

2 billion people 1.3 million users

One company decided to send 6,000 e-mail advertisements after estimating that at least 1,300,000 people have e-mail accounts.

PP 18-31


Use figures (including the numbers 1 through 10) to express measurements used in a technical sense. These measurements include items such as yards, inches, feet, acres, pounds, ounces, gross, dozen, gallons, quarts, computer measurements, and miles.

Do not use a comma to separate a measurement that consists of two parts.

15 yards (yd) 8 pounds 3 ounces 10 quarts (qt)

12 dozen (doz) 1.5 gigabytes (GB) 23 miles (mi)

PP 18-32


Use figures to express dimensions.

15- by 20-foot storage area a storage area 15 by 20 feet


15- X 20-foot storage area

a room 12 X 15 feet 12’ X 15’ room


a room 12’ X 15’

PP 18-33

metric measurements
Metric Measurements

Use figures to express metric measurements.

Use a space to mark off groups of three digits.

a trip of 210 km (kilometers)

about 35 kg (kilograms)

a distance of 200 000 m (meters)

PP 18-34

amounts of money above 1
Amounts of Money Above $1

Use figures to express amounts of money over $1.

Do not use a decimal point or zeros after even dollar amounts within a sentence.

$3.76 $15.38 $382.90 $34,493.47

$30 $5000 about $60,000

The online order includes $1000 plus the sales tax of $80 for a total of $1080.

PP 18-35

amounts of money in columns
Amounts of Money in Columns

Use zeros with even dollar amounts in a column of figures in which the other amounts contain cents.

$ 800.00



PP 18-36

foreign money
Foreign Money

Generally, place the abbreviated identification of foreign money before the amount.

EUR500 (euro)

NZD1000 (New Zealand dollar)

PP 18-37

large amounts of money
Large Amounts of Money

Combine figures and words to express amounts of money of $1 million or more.

Use the dollarsign or the word dollars, but do not use both with one figure.


$3 million or 3 million dollars

$6 1/2 million or 6 1/2 million dollars

$7.5 million or 7.5 million dollars

PP 18-38

related amounts of money amounts of money less than 1
Related Amounts of Money,Amounts of Money Less Than $1

Keep related amounts of money in the same format.

Our former building cost $2,000,000; however, we paid $3,800,000 for our new building.

Use figures to express amounts below $1. Spell out the word cents after the amount.

The cost of mailing the brochure was 75 cents.

The 5-cent discount did not interest many customers.

PP 18-39

cents in a series range of amounts of money
Cents in a Series, Range of Amounts of Money

Do not use the dollar sign with an amount less than $1 unless it appears in a series or in a table in which the other figures require dollar signs.

The costs of mailing the packets were $4.38, $ .55, $14, and $7.39.

Repeat the dollar sign or cent sign with each amount when a range of prices is expressed.

Do not repeat the word dollars or cents with each amount.

in the $15,000 to $20,000 range

a decrease from 15 to 10 cents

PP 18-40

amounts of money in legal documents
Amounts of Money in Legal Documents

Use words to express amounts of money in legal or formal documents.

Write the amount in figures, and place it in parentheses after the written expression.

Use the word and before the cents in written expressions of money.

Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($200,000)

One Thousand Three Hundred Thirty-five and 37/100 Dollars ($1,335.37).

PP 18-41

exact and approximate percentages series of percentages
Exact and Approximate Percentages, Series of Percentages

Use figures to express exact or approximate percentages.

Write the word percent after the number.

0.8 percent 15 percent 7.2 percent

5 ½ percent over 75 percent

nearly 55 percent

Write the word percent only at the end of the last number in a sentence with several percentages listed.

We receive discounts of 10, 20, and 30 percent from Wolfard & Company.

PP 18-42

political divisions publications
Political Divisions, Publications

Use words to identify political subdivisions such as congressional districts or precincts.

Tenth District representative

First Precinct election returns

Use figures to express pages, paragraphs, chapters, lines, and verses in publications.

Do not capitalize the wordspage, line, verse, or paragraph before the numbers.

page 25, line 3 paragraphs 34-43

PP 18-43


Use figures to express ratios.

2-to-1 ratio


a 2:1 ratio

PP 18-44

roman numerals in outlines and reports
Roman Numerals in Outlines and Reports

Use roman numerals to subdivide items on outlines or reports.

Align roman numerals at the right in an outline or list.

Place a period after the numeral.




PP 18-45

roman numerals as literary divisions as lowercase
Roman Numerals as Literary Divisions, as Lowercase

Use roman numerals to indicate the major parts of complete literary works such as volumes or chapters.

Volume XIV Chapter V

Use lowercase roman numerals to indicate page numbers in prefaces or in other materials that precede text materials.

Please check page iii at the beginning of our catalog for more information about our shipping policies.

PP 18-46

seniority titles
Seniority Titles

Use roman numerals or arabic numerals for seniority titles.

Do not set aside seniority titles with commas.

Daniel Russell II or Daniel Russell 2d

Mark Robbins III or Mark Robbins 3d

PP 18-47

inclusive figures
Inclusive Figures

Do not shorten the second number in an inclusive set of figures unless page numbers or dates are used frequently in a document.

pages 146-50 (frequent use)


pages 146-150 (general use)

Do not shorten inclusive numbers under 100.

pages 47-57

PP 18-48a

inclusive figures1
Inclusive Figures


Do not shorten the second number when the second number begins with a digit that is different from the first number.

pages 123-328

Do not use a shortened form for the second number in any situation in which the first number ends in two or more zeros.

pages 200-205

PP 18-48b

size symbols
Size, Symbols

Use figures to express size.

Do not capitalize the word size when it appears before the number.

My wrist requires a size 6 wrist support.

Use figures with symbols.

6 @ $25 (6 items at $25 each)

#2 pencil (Number 2)

PP 18-49

domestic telephone numbers
Domestic Telephone Numbers

Use figures for most telephone numbers. If a company uses combinations of letters and numbers or all words, follow the company’s exact format.

Use diagonals, parentheses, periods, or hyphens to separate the area code from the rest of the number.

515/555.3456 (515) 555-3416 515.555.3416


PP 18-50

international telephone numbers
International Telephone Numbers

Use figures for international telephone numbers.

Separate the international access codes, country codes, city codes, and telephone numbers with hyphens.


PP 18-51

extensions temperature
Extensions, Temperature

Use figures to identify an extension.

Spell out Extension or abbreviate it (Ext.).

510-555-4893, Extension 3964

510-555-4893, Ext. 3964

Use figures to express temperatures.

Do not space between the number and the degree symbol or between the symbol and C (Celsius) or F (Fahrenheit).

55 degrees 55 degrees Fahrenheit 55°F 100°C

PP 18-52

time with a m and p m
Time With a.m. and p.m

Use figures with a.m. and p.m.

Do not space within a.m. or within p.m.

Do not use the word o’clock with a.m. and p.m.

Our office closes at 5 p.m.

Omit the colon and zeros with times that do not involve minutes (even when other expressions of time in the sentence include minutes).

Our office opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m.

PP 18-53

time with the word o clock and in time phrases
Time with the Word O’clock and in Time Phrases

Use figures with o’clock to emphasize time.

Use words with o’clock to set a formal tone; for example, in social invitations.

1 o’clock or one o’clock

Do not use the expressions in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, or at night with a.m. or p.m.

Our office opens at 8 o’clock in the morning.

PP 18-54

time with noon and midnight
Time With Noon and Midnight

Express the terms noon and midnight in words. If other times in a sentence are written in figures, use 12 noon or 12 midnight.

We are planning an informal luncheon at noon.

We are planning an informal luncheon from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m.

PP 18-55

general time periods business related time periods
General Time Periods/Business-Related Time Periods

Use words to express general time periods such as years, months, weeks, and days except when the time period requires more than two words.

During the past two years, we have increased our use of temporary employees.

Our business is open 365 days a year.

Use numbers to indicate a time period associated with payroll periods, discounts, and interest payments.

We have a 3-year lease on this copy machine.

PP 18-56