The POP Newsletter

Wednesday #Writetip: When to Spell Out Numbers

  • By Katherine Pickett
  • 01 Mar, 2017
Consistent use of numerals (1, 2, 3) versus spelled-out numbers (one, two, three) is one of the most common problems I see in my authors’ writing. Most just type whatever form their fingers choose at that moment, but ultimately a rule of some kind should be established.
 
There are at least four different numbers rules that a writer could follow. Which one you choose has to do with the type of publication you are writing for and the technical level of the material. Your options include the following:
   
  1. Some publications prefer to spell out one through nine and use numerals for all other numbers. This is often called the informal numbers rule and is commonly employed in newspapers and magazines.
  2. Others prefer to spell out numbers one through one hundred and all large, round numbers (e.g., ten thousand, fifty million). This rule dominates the nonfiction trade book market, which includes general interest, self-help, memoir — most books that are sold in bookstores but are not textbooks or fiction. It is commonly referred to as the formal numbers rule.
  3.   A small segment of publications use numerals in all instances except in general uses like “I for one” or “for one thing.” I have only seen this in corporate reports, where the press has decided numbers appear often enough that it isn’t worth the time to deal with exceptions.
  4.    And then there are those publications that spell out all numbers no matter what. This is most commonly seen in fiction, where numbers are used rarely, and when they are used, it is not for exact measurements.
   
I don’t know any cute names for these last two rules, but I do know they are the simplest to follow. That is because they have the fewest exceptions. Exceptions are what make numbers rules challenging even for trained editors.
   
In fact, I’ve found one of the quick ways to tell a book that hasn’t been edited very well is to look at the treatment of numbers. If I find a bunch of inconsistencies, I figure the editor didn’t know her numbers rules and has probably made other mistakes as well. (The numbers rule is an early lesson in editing training.)
   
As the author, you can help by choosing the numbers rule that suits your type of book and following it as best you can. It’s highly likely you will make a mistake somewhere — use words where there should be numerals or vice versa — but you can help yourself and your editor by working toward consistency.
    

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro , available through POP Editorial Services , Amazon.com , Barnes and Noble , Novel Books, and other fine retailers
Katherine Pickett
Katherine Pickett is the owner of POP Editorial Services, LLC, and the author of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro.

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The POP Newsletter

By Katherine Pickett 15 Oct, 2017
Dear Reader,

I have been writing The POP Newsletter for more than six years and have accumulated some 85 posts. Unfortunately, much of that history has been lost. I will continue to add new posts and re-create the old ones, but it will take time. Please bear with me.

Sincerely,
Katherine Pickett

PS. I have purposefully left this beautiful stock photo here for your enjoyment. Don't you feel calmer already?

KP
By Katherine Pickett 14 Sep, 2017

When I listed the Kindle and Nook editions of my second novel, Race for the Flash Stone , to accept preorders, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Big-name authors routinely list their upcoming titles for preorders, and their books-in-waiting always seem to immediately pop onto the best-seller lists. But what could an unknown indie author hope to achieve by employing the same practice? The answer: Whoa, Nelly!

Of course, I hoped accepting preorders for my book would generate sales in advance of the official release, but I had no idea how many to anticipate. I set my expectations low and chastened myself to primarily treat the 60-day preorder window as an opportunity to build awareness of the upcoming release among my Facebook and blog followers. That tempered view quickly changed within days after listing the book for preorders on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website, bn.com.

Sales quickly accumulated, and this led to a few unexpected side benefits that continue to accrue as of this writing, two months after the official release date. In short, I received 3 powerful benefits from listing my book for preorders that led to a book launch that exceeded my expectations:

1.     Unsolicited buzz by Amazon and Barnes & Noble

2.     Faster accumulation of reviews and ratings for the new book

3.     Early read on sales level led me to boost advertising investment in first book

Before describing these benefits in more depth, it’s likely of value to provide some brief background to assist fellow newbie indie authors in determining whether my preorder insights are of value.

First, both of my novels are part of a series titled The Anlon Cully Chronicles. The first book in the series, Shadows of the Stone Benders , was released in May 2016. Race for the Flash Stone is a continuation of the story explored in Shadows of the Stone Benders , and that likely had an impact on the stronger than expected preorders, as Shadows of the Stone Benders concluded with a soft cliffhanger.

By Katherine Pickett 03 Apr, 2017

If you want to give your books the best shot of selling, you must give conscious effort to establishing your author brand.

 A strong presence helps an author or any online entrepreneur in the same way branding helps companies. An author brand helps you establish a name people recognize and trust, which helps you sell more books.

By Katherine Pickett 01 Mar, 2017
Consistent use of numerals (1, 2, 3) versus spelled-out numbers (one, two, three) is one of the most common problems I see in my authors’ writing. Most just type whatever form their fingers choose at that moment, but ultimately a rule of some kind should be established.
 
There are at least four different numbers rules that a writer could follow. Which one you choose has to do with the type of publication you are writing for and the technical level of the material. Your options include the following:
   
  1. Some publications prefer to spell out one through nine and use numerals for all other numbers. This is often called the informal numbers rule and is commonly employed in newspapers and magazines.
  2. Others prefer to spell out numbers one through one hundred and all large, round numbers (e.g., ten thousand, fifty million). This rule dominates the nonfiction trade book market, which includes general interest, self-help, memoir — most books that are sold in bookstores but are not textbooks or fiction. It is commonly referred to as the formal numbers rule.
  3.   A small segment of publications use numerals in all instances except in general uses like “I for one” or “for one thing.” I have only seen this in corporate reports, where the press has decided numbers appear often enough that it isn’t worth the time to deal with exceptions.
  4.    And then there are those publications that spell out all numbers no matter what. This is most commonly seen in fiction, where numbers are used rarely, and when they are used, it is not for exact measurements.
   
I don’t know any cute names for these last two rules, but I do know they are the simplest to follow. That is because they have the fewest exceptions. Exceptions are what make numbers rules challenging even for trained editors.
   
In fact, I’ve found one of the quick ways to tell a book that hasn’t been edited very well is to look at the treatment of numbers. If I find a bunch of inconsistencies, I figure the editor didn’t know her numbers rules and has probably made other mistakes as well. (The numbers rule is an early lesson in editing training.)
   
As the author, you can help by choosing the numbers rule that suits your type of book and following it as best you can. It’s highly likely you will make a mistake somewhere — use words where there should be numerals or vice versa — but you can help yourself and your editor by working toward consistency.
    
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