I used to wonder what the difference was between “number” and “numeral.” Now, I think I have it figured out.
A numeral is a symbol that represents a number. So what is a number? Think of it as meaning a quantity.
When we use numbers in our written work, the question is often, “Should I use a numeral or spell out the number?”
The answer? It depends.
Here are some of the things it depends on:
Which rule are you going to use? Will you spell out the numbers from zero to one hundred, or zero through nine? I have even seen rules made up by publishers who say their preference is to spell out zero to twenty and use symbols for the rest.
Let’s say you spell out zero to one hundred in your writing. You should also spell out round numbers like the hundreds, thousands and millions. So you might write: The population of the town was thirty-two thousand, but after fifty-one more people moved in, the population went up to 32,051.
(Thirty-two thousand is a round number so it is spelled out, fifty-one is not a round number but it is spelled out because of the zero to one hundred rule, and 32,051 is written in numerals because it is over one hundred, but not a round number.)
If a sentence begins with a number, it should be spelled out.
Three hundred fifty-five students attended the school.
All of the 355 students were in attendance on the last day of school.
One more thing; when spelling out numbers over one hundred, do not include “and.”
It should be three hundred fifty-five; not three hundred and fifty-five.
Are we having fun yet?