Show Numbers as Figures in Online Content

All numbers should appear as figures with the exception of:
* Phrases and sayings.
* Proper names.
* First word in a sentence — better to rewrite so it isn’t the first word. Headlines like “5 Steps to…” are exempt.
* Mentioned in a sentence where the number isn’t an important fact (I know this one is a gray area).
Jakob Nielsen’s column regarding writing numbers online prompted this entry. Actually, the title of the article is “Show Numbers as Numerals When Writing for Online Readers.” AP Style defines numerals, “A figure, letter, word or group of words expressing a number.”
In other words, he says to spell out the numbers when he means the opposite as it’s clearly stated in the abstract, “It’s better to use ’23’ than ‘twenty-three’ to catch users’ eyes when they scan Web pages for facts, according to eyetracking data.” In the article, he writes that Chicago Manual of Style states to spell out numbers 1 – 99, AP Style and many style guides say to do the following:
* “Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence.” It recommends rewording the sentence so the number doesn’t appear at the start. Calendar years are exempt from this rule.
* “Spell out in casual expressions.” A 1000 times no and thanks a 1,000,000 just don’t work.
* Leave proper names as they’re supposed to appear. Examples: 3M and 20th Century Fox.
* Spell out whole numbers below 10 and use “figures” (that’s the right word, not “numerals”) for numbers 10 and above.
Based on these rules, all numbers should appear as figures not spelled out words except 1 – 9. For online writing, the numbers between one and nine should appear as figures when they represent a fact such as “9% of the …” and “5 Ways…” These help scannability.
Spelling out the number works better in a sentence like, “She has four computers.” Using “She has 4 computers” needlessly distracts the reader with this no so important fact. Don’t worry about numbers over 10. Use your best judgment for numbers under 10.

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