When should you spell out a number in a scientific paper, and when do you use a numeral? Here's how to follow conventions and be consistent.
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In ranges of numbers, MLA Style includes the entire second number for numbers up to 99 ; ; but uses only the last two digits of the second number for larger numbers, unless more are needed ; ; 2, ; 5, Ranges of years beginning in AD have their own rules: If the first two digits of both years are the same, include only the last two digits of the second year ; Otherwise, both numbers should be fully written out ; APA Style does not have explicit rules for ranges of numbers, except for when referring to a page range or a range of dates in a reference list entry.
Numerous examples in Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual show both numbers in a page range being written out in full, regardless of size, and example 23 on page demonstrates the same concept applied to a range of years. Thus, a range of numbers 10—40 ; — ; 5,—5, ; 90,—90, or dates — ; — should never be abbreviated. I hope that this post will help those of you transitioning from MLA Style to APA Style the next time you need to include numbers in your research papers.
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Be sure to also check out our series of posts on numbers and metrication and our FAQ page on when to express numbers as words. Second, a cluster of numbers in a sentence or paragraph is best handled with numerals for readability.
Third, numbers that refer to comparable quantities in close proximity should be treated the same. In the following sentence, for example, the number six is written as a numeral because the other two numbers in the same sentence are in nontechnical writing too complex to be expressed in words:.
Attendance at the board meetings last year ranged from 6 people at the first meeting to at the last, with the highest attendance being when we discussed the budget. Finally, decimal fractions and percentages should be expressed in numerals, not in words.