Expressing numbers in the English language is quite a conundrum. Journal styles express them differently, and while I agree with most of the styles, the Washington Post Deskbook really confuses me. Its style says to “use figures in ages of people and animals: A 4-year-old horse, a four-year-old building;….” (EEI Press 1996, pg. 195). Notice that it does not hold the same rule for inanimate objects. I do not understand this distinction because I think figures should always be used for both animate and inanimate objects. It would be more consistent in my opinion to just use figures in both cases.
I do agree with the Washington Post Deskbook in regards to expressing all numbers as figures in a series of three or more numbers if any one of them is larger than 10 (EEI Press 1996). It would be more consistent to say “Phineas has 2 eyes, 1 nose, and 10 fingers” than to say “Phineas has two eyes, one nose, and 10 fingers.” The Washington Post Deskbook also notes that when two numbers are used, one should be spelled out while the other is not: Ferb had five shirts and 12 pants. (EEI Press, 1996). I would prefer if the sentence were to be “Ferb had 5 shirts and 12 pants.”
As the EEI Press argues, figures should be used for every number whenever figures make more sense, especially for at least two numbers, one of which is higher than nine. We should definitely abandon long-winded number styles. (EEI Press 1996).
EEI Press. (1996). Stet Again! More Tricks of the Trade for Publications People. Alexandria, VA: EEI Press.
Xara Nahara O’Connor