Linguistics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional linguists and others with an interest in linguistic research and theory. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I had an argument with someone recently and figured I should find out, so I went on a research spree and could not find any authoritative answers on the subject.

I am sure there are many disputes about how one should write numbers, as digits (0-9) or as words (one, two, three....)

I just want to know about one particular subset of this.

If I want to write 'Three cookies' is it incorrect to write '3 cookies'?


I am aware that when wanting to write large numbers, it is acceptable to write with digits, like in the case of '4356 people showed up to the event' since it would be sort of silly to write 'four thousand three hundred and fifty six people showed up to the event' but in the case of single digits, I was always told I should write the number out fully, and not just use the digit.

I hope my question is clear, I do not want to start a discussion or a debate about anything other than the particular case of writing a single digit versus writing out the word. Thanks.

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by bytebuster, Joe, Alenanno Feb 11 '13 at 18:18

Questions on Linguistics Stack Exchange are expected to relate to linguistics within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Hey @Inbar Rose, this would probably be a question that would be better placed in the English Language and Usage stack exchange, as it's more of a question about style, rather than linguistics. – Danger Fourpence Feb 11 '13 at 14:37
I thought so at first, but then I figured, this is not solely an 'English' issue. I myself speak three languages (3 languages?) and it can easily apply to all of them. – Inbar Rose Feb 11 '13 at 14:42
I suppose you have a point there – Danger Fourpence Feb 11 '13 at 15:33
I don't see the Linguistic question in this... To me it sounds like a style-related question (regardless of the language). I agree with Danger on that. – Alenanno Feb 11 '13 at 16:54
Just a tip--the terms "correct" and "incorrect" are going to raise red flags here (regardless of the language or languages under consideration), because such terms are outside the purview of linguistics. Linguists are interested in descriptive grammar, i.e. how people speak in real life, not prescriptive grammar, i.e. how rulebooks, style guides, and high school English (or whatever language) teachers say people should speak or write. – musicallinguist Feb 12 '13 at 14:30

This is wholly in the purview of style guides, which is the only domain in which this can be 'incorrect'. Many such guides agree that sentences should not begin with numerals, and it is common to prescribe that numbers <10 should be written out. If you're writing for a publication (in whatever language), you should follow their rules.

share|improve this answer
I'm simply curious. Since the written word is something that comes after the spoken word, it has more rules, when speaking this issue never arises, and I am just wondering. – Inbar Rose Feb 11 '13 at 15:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.