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
6 of the 250 members and not six of the 250 numbers
- Use commas between every three digits from the right in large numbers
1,300 or 344,345,563
- Use symbols when talking about money amount and percentages instead of words
$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.
12 March 2003 or March 12, 2003
Rules to Using Numbers in MLA Format
Use numerals when numbers are preceded or succeeded by a symbol or abbreviation
Use numbers in addresses
In papers focusing on mathematical or scientific concepts, use numerals before measurement terms
Spell ordinal less than 100
Numbers beginning sentences should be written in words
Two of the students that went for the quiz were dullards.
Millenniums, centuries and decades the numbers should be spelled out
Ten decades ago
Five millenniums back
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 (Find out where to use parentheses). If the list does not imply a rank or temporal order, then do not use numbers to list them.
- 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.
- Three, and
Ratios, decimals, and fractions
Ratios should be written with numerals with a colon between them
1:3 or a 1:3 ratio
Decimals should be written with numerals
Fractions should be written in words with a hyphen
She collected one-third of the money
He stole to-third of the meal
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
A two-by-five box was used
3½ × 7-inch room
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.
£500 for British pounds
500 fr. For French franc
500 Haitian gourdes
When you are writing the time of day in your text, you are expected to spell it out
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
At 10:00 p.m, the family went out