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Hello Susan,

I'm in the process of writing the second draft of my novel and am getting hung up on numbers.  Is there a rule about using digits rather than words for numbers?

The following snippet of dialogue is an example of my confusion:

"Okay, that's 46. We have 4 more to go."

"Four? I thought there were 52."

I'd appreciate any guidance you can provide.


Hello, Brenda:

What an interesting question! In over 450 questions I've answered, I've never seen this one.

To tell you the truth, I don't know what publishers require in the way of proper expression of numbers, but I can tell you what the standard is. The APA Style Manual, which a lot of industries depend on, says this:

   "The numbers zero through nine are spelled out (except when it is a table or figure number, or a metric measurement, etc.). The numbers 10 and above are written as numbers."

I don't think you can go wrong following this advice, and if you are questioned about it, you can always say you rely on the APA Manual of Style, and that should end the argument.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 450 questions.

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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