Writing Numbers

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Just a heads up: this chapter will probably be pretty short. It'll probably only be two thousand words. Or should I have said 2,000 words? Or 2000 words? Or 2 thousand? Or even... two-000? 

If anyone is using that last one... why? Why would you choose to be violent? 

Anyways! So, a while ago, someone asked me to do a chapter about writing numbers in fiction writing. Honestly, I thought it was pretty straight-forward and encouraged them to just search it up, but then I realised... well, it actually can be a little complicated and messy. 

To start: there is no official 'manual' for how fiction writing should be done. Sure, some people will say that you should use Times New Roman as a font, while some say that if you don't use Arial, you will be crucified. Some authors will tell you never to use double-spacing in your drafts, while others will say that double-spacing helps compensate for your lack of descriptive writing. 

Conflicting opinions!

It doesn't help that, if we look at writing guidelines, they all say different things. In my first year of university, all four of my courses required a different formatting style -- APA, Harvard, Chicago, and MLA (which I always call My Little A-Pony). 

This meant that all of my essays had different fonts, different spacings, and different number rules. 

And this is why I have an identity crisis. 

So, after doing a lot of research, here is what I've gathered! I hope this makes it a lot easier for everyone else. 


There is no strict policy. If you need to write numbers a certain way for stylistic purposes, go for it. However, these rules are the ones that seem to be the most encouraged for all fiction writers. 

The most important rule is that, whatever you choose, you stay consistent throughout your novel.

1. Numbers 1-100 should be written out. 

So, instead of doing what I did, you should be saying things like: 

I have eighty-nine spiders on my face. 

He kissed my hand forty-eight times. 

There are now six spiders on his lips. 

Notice that I used a hyphen for forty-eight and eighty-nine. This is also encouraged, as opposed to writing forty eight and eighty nine. Compound numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine should always have a hyphen.

2. If you are writing numbers that are 100+, but they are only followed by 'hundred/thousand/million' etc., also write it out. 

So, basically, any round numbers. For example: 

I ate nine hundred spring rolls. 

He ate two thousand bugs. 

We both clearly have nine billion problems. 

3. If the number is not rounded, you would numerically write it. 

Like so: 

My library can fit 344 books. 

His library can fit 937 books. 

I stabbed him 915 times out of jealousy. 

4. HOWEVER. If the number is at the start of a sentence, make sure it is written out. 

So instead of saying: 

394 birds came to his funeral. 

You would actually write: 

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