Numbers in MLA Format


When writing a paper or an essay, most authors prefer to spell out the numbers that can be written in one or two words while they use figures for numbers that would require more than two words to be written in words. However, how you would write numbers in your paper or essay basically depends on the writing style you are using.

Having said that, the MLA handbook states numbers should be spelled out if they can be written in one or two words such as “three” or “four hundred.” Also, you are to use figures if the number requires three or more words to write in words. However, this rule has some exceptions that will be discussed in this article.

Formatting Guideline for Numbers in MLA Format

  • Use the same structure for numbers demonstrating a comparative relationship

For example

6 of the 250 members and not six of the 250 numbers

  • Use commas between every three digits from the right in large numbers

For example

1,300 or 344,345,563

  • Use symbols when talking about money amount and percentages instead of words

For example

$5,000 or 34%

  • Use the consistent order of information for dates. i.e., day-month-year with no punctuation between them or month-day-year with a comma between the day and year and another after the year.

For example

12 March 2003 or March 12, 2003

Rules to Using Numbers in MLA Format

check-mark Numbers

Use numerals when numbers are preceded or succeeded by a symbol or abbreviation

For example

8 kb

6 lbs

Use numbers in addresses

For example

210 lane

2nd street

In papers focusing on mathematical or scientific concepts, use numerals before measurement terms

For example

4 centimeters

10 meters

Spell ordinal less than 100

For example





Numbers beginning sentences should be written in words

For example

Two of the students that went for the quiz were dullards.

Millenniums, centuries and decades the numbers should be spelled out

For example

Ten decades ago

Two centuries

Five millenniums back

check-mark Enumeration

When you are enumerating within the text in your paper that is having a numerical list, use numbered phrases, and set the number in parentheses without periods. If the list does not imply a rank or temporal order, then do not use numbers to list them.

For example

  • One meal, (2) two meals, (3) three meals, and (4) four meals.

Additionally, if the list is indented, that is, away from the running text, then the number should be followed by a period before the item.

For example

  • One,
  • Two,
  • Three, and
  • Four

check-mark Ratios, decimals, and fractions

Ratios should be written with numerals with a colon between them

For example

1:3 or a 1:3 ratio

Decimals should be written with numerals

For example



Fractions should be written in words with a hyphen

For example

She collected one-third of the money

He stole to-third of the meal

check-mark Dimension and measurement

When the dimension is in whole numbers, it has to be spelled out, but if it is fractions it should be written in numerals with a multiplication sign between them

For example

A two-by-five box was used

3½ × 7-inch room

check-mark Money

Use the symbol for currencies that their symbols are well known. Also, use the appropriate abbreviation for known currencies. Plus, spell out the currency for unpopular currencies.

For example

£500 for British pounds

500 fr. For French franc

500 Haitian gourdes

check-mark Time

When you are writing the time of day in your text, you are expected to spell it out

For example

At ten o’clock the family went out

When the exact time is emphasized, that is if a.m or p.m are used then you should use numerals

For example

At 10:00 p.m, the family went out

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