Is one variation okay and one not? strictly grammarians and also the editors of the New Yorker would say yes, you must spell out a number as soon as it start a sentence – no exceptions. Yet like so many rules, we’re seeing this one rest down.

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It’s common to view the “words-not-numerals” edict ignored, i beg your pardon prompts me come wonder even if it is this is a trouble or just one more example of how language evolves. In various other words, room we gift a Mrs. A. If we insist on put on impose the rule? Let’s think about its the positives and negatives because that the rule:

Why The dominion Makes Sense

We’ve established structures because that signaling to readers that we’ve got to the finish of one sentence and we’re beginning another. This is so built in to our way of composing that we don’t think about it:

Use a period to say you done through one sentence. Put a space – or in the old days, 2 spaces – between the duration and the following sentence. Capitalize the very first letter that the word beginning the new sentence.

Looked at the way, spelling out the number is the indistinguishable of the capital an initial letter. That a method of saying, “This is the start of a sentence.”

Without the contrast in between the word and also numeric form, there"s no method to indicate that shift. You could say the the period and an are are enough, however if so, why not begin sentences through a small letter letter in the very first word?

Why The dominion Is Dated

In a word, readability.

It probably took you three times as lengthy to master the an interpretation of two thousand one hundreds sixty-fiveyears ago as it go to understand 2165 year ago. The 2nd version takes increase a lot less space, too.

Another factor to consider on why we have to let walk of the “words-not-numerals” rule: We usage numbers a lot much more these days than we did when the rules of English to be created. We’re data-driven.

There aren’t plenty of occasions come worry about the use of numbers in sentences when you’re writing around Heathcliff’s love because that Catherine. There are once you’re discussing the outcomes of an intensive marketing research project.

Here space my tips on when to obey the ascendancy on spelling the end numbers at the start of a sentence:

1) use it when your audience is highly educated: Those New Yorker readers? Yeah, they’re walk to gain annoyed if you start a sentence v a number. So will certainly a many educated human being who’ve to be trained to monitor the rule. They’ll think much less of you. I m really sorry – they simply will.

2) Recast her sentence: You probably have the right to rephrase the sentence therefore you can start with something various other than a number. That might require creating in the passive tense, but it might be worth the trade-off.

3) use it as soon as the number is short and also you don’t have actually a many them in the remainder of your piece: If our very first example was around something that happened Fifteen years ago …, we wouldn’t have actually the very same readability problem. Simply write the out and be done v the matter.

4) Don’t usage it when you perform refer come a many numbers: If you’re writing that marketing research study report, you going come annoy her readers if friend start hundreds of sentences by spelling the end the number. There’s additionally the weirdness of exactly how we pronounce years in these early decades of the 21st century: Twenty fourteen? Two thousand three? Ugh. No wonder some guides currently say it’s okay to begin sentences through a number as soon as referring come a year.

5) usage bullet points or other creates instead that sentences once possible: Bullet points space an automatically signal to the reader that you’re chunking information into different units. That provides it okay to placed a number right after the bullet point itself.

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6) think about a print-vs.-digital distinction: because readability is much more of a trouble on a screen than top top paper, it renders sense to usage numbers much more readily for digital use. This is why the Yahoo! style Guide takes a different tack to spelling out numbers below 10 when the AP layout Guide states you need to write, “one, two, three …”

7) In headlines, a number is probably okay: Here’s one more old school vs. Brand-new school distinction. A many newspapers firmly insist that their headlines spell the end the number if provided at the beginning: Sixteen witnesses set to testify in ~ bribery trial. But v the development of listicles and also the like, we’ve let the ascendancy lapse. Ns think that’s okay – a headline on its own tells you that it’s a brand-new sentence. So to settle the question, you just read: 7 tips On starting A Sentence v A Number.

Michael Blumfield is an live independence marketing interactions consultant in St. Paul, Minn. (Or is the MN? that’s the subject of one more column.) reach him at michael.blumfield

18 9 comments

Michael, ns think the is vital to plainly indicate your intended audience. As a scientist, I occupational with data constantly. Many of it have to be expressed in decimal format. Put numeric data at the beginning of a sentence would wreak havoc on the readability of a report. I think that, in mine field, gift dogmatic around this dominance is exceptionally important. I believe it is simply as crucial to let her audience recognize that in spite of our more data-driven world, there space still fields of examine that require such rules for clear communication.