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 the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro.

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The POP Newsletter

By Katherine Pickett 04 Dec, 2017
Six years of blogs -- NOT LOST!

You can now read archived posts from The POP Newsletter at www.popediting.wordpress.com !  There you will find classic posts like "The Ban on Adverbs," "Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do," "Beta Readers Aren't Editors; Editors Aren't Beta Readers," and much more!

I'm thrilled to have access to these posts again. New material will appear on this blog. For the oldies, you can click "Blog Archive" in the top navigation of this website and read to your heart's content.

Hallelujah!
By Katherine Pickett 28 Nov, 2017

Both publishing houses and self-publishers have a vested interest in controlling the costs of book production. Although artwork -- and by that I mean photos, illustrations, line drawings, charts, and graphs -- adds to the value of a book, it also can add significant time and cost. Why is that? Here are the biggest drivers:

  • A major contributor to the cost of books with many pieces of artwork is the time it takes to ensure an attractive layout. Art-heavy books require a lot of manipulation during page layout so that the photographs and illustrations land near enough to the text that they belong with. Sometimes the text may need to be rewritten or captions revised in order to accommodate all of the artwork. By comparison, most fiction and other all-text books require much less manipulation, as there are fewer special elements to disrupt the flow of regular text.
  • Photos and illustrations also require licensing. The cost of these licenses can vary from around $40 to upwards of $300 per piece. If you’re planning a different photo for each of the 20 chapters in your book, for example, that’s a serious cost consideration.
  • If stock art is not appropriate for your book, you may have to research museum and library archives or hire a photographer or illustrator. In the case of hiring an artist, in addition to licensing you also have to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee for the artist’s time. Researching archives may not add monetary costs, but it does add time, which is an indirect cost.
  • When artwork is introduced, another professional may also be introduced -- the image specialist. This is the person who scans any prints and verifies that the images are of high enough quality. If there is no dedicated image specialist, this job falls to another player in the book production process, and the time for that person to do the work is added to the cost of the book. Publishing houses may have the production editor or layout artist perform these tasks. A self-publisher may have to do it themselves.
By Katherine Pickett 10 Nov, 2017

What good timing you have! For my book, I went through Lightning Source because the quality is said to be better, you can set your discount rates (good if you want to be in bookstores), and I am not a fan of Amazon as a company.

 Things did not go as smoothly at LS as I had expected. It took three proofs before we were satisfied that the print quality was going to be all right. We have some shaded boxes, and the shading was uneven. Apparently our proof was the last book off the press before they changed the ink (seriously). I was not impressed. The cover and paper were very good though.

 Over Christmas we learned that Amazon was taking longer and longer to get our books to customers. Cathy Davis reported having to wait 3 weeks! Then they started saying our book was out of stock. We finally decided it was in our best interest to work with CreateSpace and LS at the same time. I wasn't thrilled with that because, if LS has print quality issues, what is CS going to do? Most people order from Amazon and therefore the books would be coming from CS. And I don't want my readers getting crummy-looking books. But, I was over a barrel, so I signed up for CS.

 Turns out the print quality at CS was better than at LS and we had nothing to worry about there. It is clear to someone who is really looking closely that the binding is not as good, and the color match on the cover isn't exact, but only we would notice that. The paper is a little creamier than I would have wanted, but I prefer it to the stark white that is the other option from CS. LS's paper is a very pleasant light cream; CS's is a little darker but still OK. Also, CS charges less per book, by about 50 cents. When you're ordering 150 books for various events, that makes a difference.

 Right now we plan to keep both accounts -- one with LS and the other with CS -- but I do wish I hadn't waited so long to sign up with CS. I hate that Amazon controls everything, but with the quality of printing I saw and the cheaper per unit price, I came to terms with it.

 Given the type of book you are creating, I would definitely consider using CreateSpace. You can sign up for free and get a proof for about $4 (plus shipping). If you hate it, you can move on to Ingram. Or you can sign up with both. If you do go with CS, consider getting a matte finish on your book. I find the glossy from CS to be too shiny. The matte we received looks really good. Since you have a self-help/spiritual book, I think the matte would suit your genre.

 So, there's a long answer to a short question. I hope it helps!

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
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