Tag Archive - editing tips

Numbers and Numerals Count

A few handy rules about numbers and numerals:

Don’t put the letter A in front of numeric values. Don’t say, “A 127 people chose option b,” or “the suit cost a $100.” Just say, “There were 127 people who chose option b,” or “the suit cost $100.” Be aware, too, that you can’t begin a sentence with a numeral:

Wrong: “127 people chose option B.”
Correct: “One hundred and twenty people chose option B” OR “A total of 127 people chose option B.”

The second choice is really better because you really aren’t supposed to spell out numbers over a hundred. Some editors argue that numerals shouldn’t be used in dialogue because people don’t “speak” in numerals, but there is nothing objectionable, according to Chicago style, that prevents a writer from using numerals in dialog. The main concern is you want to be clear and consistent. No one wants to read a sentence like “Hey, I got seventeen thousand, eight hundred, and fifty-six downloads on Amazon.” This is so much easier on the eyes:

  • “Hey, I saw you had 236 five-star reviews on Amazon—that’s great,” she said.

Chicago recommends using numerals for dates and in brand names like 7-Eleven.

  • “I graduated class of ’96.” (make sure your curly quote curves like a backward c)
  • “Let’s ride down to 7-Eleven and get eight hot dogs.”

Also be mindful when writing monetary values. Don’t write “$100 dollars,” just “$100.” You have already implied dollars by using the $ sign.

This Blog Comprises Three Short Paragraphs

Okay, this is going to be a short but concise post here. Repeat after me: “The whole comprises the parts . . . the whole comprises the parts.”

Writers always mess up with comprise. The word does not mean compose. You cannot say “it is comprised of.” Sorry, can’t. A house comprises six rooms. My novel comprises eighteen chapters. This blog comprises fifty-two entries for the year. Okay, some say the word has evolved and now it’s acceptable to use comprise to mean “compose,” but as Merriam-Webster says: “You may be subject to critcism if you do so.” Heaven forbid someone criticizes your misuse of comprise!

Now, my bicycle is composed of various metals like aluminum and steel. Or I could say my cheesecake is made up of ten different ingredients. This may sound odd to your ear, but this is the correct way to use comprise. Comprende?

To Italicize or Not to Italicize? A Rule of Thumb

Writers need to know what types of terms are put in italics.

Think in terms of relative size. Shorter works are not italicized but go in quotes. A short story would be in quotes, but a short story anthology with many stories would have an italicized title. Songs, poems, unpublished works, articles are in quotes. An epic poem is in italics, though, so I suppose it’s up to you to decide if it’s sufficiently long enough to merit the italics.

Here’s a partial list of the things that need to be italicized:

• Titles of photographs
• Titles of art exhibits
• Titles of blogs (the main title used each time, not the web url)
• Title of podcast programs
• Title of a painting
• Title of a book
• Title of a movie
• Title of a play
• Title of a pamphlet or report
• Title of a music album or CD
• A foreign term (if you use it repeatedly, only italicize it the first time. Do not italicize a foreign name like Fifi LaPlant or a foreign city or street name.)

Note: the name of a website is just in regular headline style: “I like to browse Technium.com for new tech tips.”

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