Is one version okay and one not? Strict grammarians and the editors of the New Yorker would say yes, you have to spell out a number once it starts a sentence – no exceptions. But choose so many rules, we’re seeing this one break down.

You are watching: Is it ok to start a sentence with a number

It’s widespread to check out the “words-not-numerals” edict ignored, which prompts me to wonder whether this is a difficulty or just another example of just how language evolves. In various other words, are we being a Mrs. A. if we insist on enforcing the rule? Let’s consider its the positives and also negatives for the rule:

Why The Rule Makes Sense

We’ve establimelted frameworks for signaling to readers that we’ve got to the end of one sentence and we’re beginning one more. This is so constructed in to our method of writing that we don’t think around it:

Use a period to say you’re done via one sentence. Put a space – or in the old days, 2 spaces – between the period and also the next sentence. Capitalize the initially letter of the word start the brand-new sentence.

Looked at that means, spelling out the number is the equivalent of that funding initially letter. It’s a way of saying, “This is the start of a sentence.”

Without the comparison between the word and also numeric develop, there"s no means to indicate that change. You could say that the duration and also room are sufficient, but if so, why not begin sentences through a lowercase letter in the first word?

Why The Rule Is Dated

In a word, readcapacity.

It probably took you three times as lengthy to grasp the definition of two thousand one hundred sixty-fiveyears ago as it did to understand also 2165 years ago. The second variation takes up a lot much less area, too.

Anvarious other consideration on why we should let go of the “words-not-numerals” rule: We use numbers a lot even more these days than we did once the rules of English were created. We’re data-pushed.

There aren’t many type of occasions to concern about the use of numbers in sentences once you’re writing about Heathcliff’s love for Catherine. Tbelow are as soon as you’re mentioning the outcomes of an intensive marketing research project.

Here are my tips on when to obey the dominance on spelling out numbers at the beginning of a sentence:

1) Use it as soon as your audience is extremely educated: Those New Yorker readers? Yeah, they’re going to get annoyed if you begin a sentence through a number. So will a lot of educated human being who’ve been trained to follow the ascendancy. They’ll think much less of you. Sorry – they just will.

2) Reactors your sentence: You more than likely have the right to reexpression the sentence so you have the right to begin through somepoint other than a number. That could need writing in the passive tense, but it may be worth the trade-off.

3) Use it once the number is brief and you don’t have actually a lot of them in the remainder of your piece: If our first instance was about something that happened Fifteenager years earlier …, we wouldn’t have actually the very same readability problem. Just compose it out and also be done via the matter.

4) Don’t use it once you DO refer to the majority of numbers: If you’re writing that marketing research study report, you’re going to annoy your readers if you begin hundreds of sentences by spelling out the number. There’s additionally the weirdness of how we pronounce years in these beforehand decades of the 21st century: Twenty fourteen? Two thousand also three? Ugh. No wonder some guides now say it’s okay to start sentences via a number when referring to a year.

5) Use bullet points or various other develops instead of sentences once possible: Bullet points are an automatic signal to the reader that you’re chunking information right into various devices. That renders it okay to put a number ideal after the bullet point itself.

See more: How To Say I Only Speak English In Spanish, Bilingualism

6) Consider a print-vs.-digital distinction: Due to the fact that readcapability is more of a trouble on a display than on paper, it provides sense to usage numbers even more conveniently for digital usage. This is why the Yahoo! Layout Guide takes a different tack to spelling out numbers below 10 while the AP Style Guide says you have to create, “one, 2, three …”

7) In headlines, a number is more than likely okay: Here’s another old school vs. brand-new college difference. A lot of newsrecords urge that their headlines spell out the number if supplied at the beginning: Sixteen witnesses collection to testify at bribery trial. But via the arrival of listicles and the prefer, we’ve let the rule lapse. I think that’s okay – a headline on its own tells you that it’s a brand-new sentence. So to resolve the question, you just read: 7 Tips On Starting A Sentence With A Number.

Michael Blumfield is an independent marketing communications consultant in St. Paul, Minn. (Or is it MN? That’s the subject of an additional column.) Reach him at michael.blumfield

*
18 9 Comments
*

Michael, I think it is crucial to plainly suggest your intfinished audience. As a scientist, I occupational through information constantly. Many of it have to be expressed in decimal format. Placing numeric information at the beginning of a sentence would wreak havoc on the readability of a report. I think that, in my field, being dogmatic about this dominance is incredibly essential. I believe it is just as important to let your audience understand that despite our more data-thrust people, tright here are still fields of study that need such rules for clear interaction.