Common English Mistakes made with Writing Numbers – When to Spell or Write – IELTS Writing Tips

Numbers are sometimes confusing in English, especially if you are a beginner in English. Even the advanced English learners make these common mistakes in English while writing numbers. The confusion is, whether you should spell a number or write a number. I have often seen these mistakes in email messages, and whenever I take a class on English writing, I usually see students making these silly mistakes. In today’s English lesson to improve your English writing skills, I will give you some useful writing tips about writing numbers correctly in English, so that your, essays, reports, email messages are just perfect. 

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Complete Lesson Transcript : –

Hi friends, welcome back to a new lesson. Well today’s lesson is for all of you who are writing emails regularly, who make official documents and you deal with numbers while doing your work, right? So there are certain times we need to write numbers as in a numerical form and there are certain times you need to spell them, right? But we do get confused as in when to write in numerical and when to spell out a number. Well I have a few tips for you let’s take a look. So first let’s see, when to spell out numbers. Now supposing you have number that is less than ten, okay? So for example if I say, two people or two participants are attending the conference, okay? Or if I want to say nine letters were sent out, okay? So if the number is less than ten, it is always better to spell out the number, okay? The next one is, when you start a sentence with a number, now for example, in this sentence I have written ‘15 children were at the concert.’ If you see I have used the numerical form, but well friends, remember when you start a sentence with a number it is always better to spell it out. So this is not the correct way, what you need to do is, spell out a number when you start a sentence with a number. So this will be the correct way of writing ‘Fifteen children were at the concert’, okay? Do remember these small things because there are times probably you are sending out an email and you are in a hurry, so you do the short cut and you write the numerical, don’t do that, spell it out. So remember when you start the sentence, spell out the number. Okay, well the next one is in formal writing. Now I have a sentence here, say for example, I’m writing an email and I’m sending two files attached okay? So I’m going to say ‘Please find attached the 2 files’ well here, it’s a formal email and like I said in my first rule, if it is less than ten, please spell it out. So even here you have 15 but because it’s an email you are probably sending to your vendor, to your clients or may be to your managers, to your superiors, please follow the correct rule, spell it out. Okay, the next one is 8 O’clock. Now supposing I’m confirming a meeting with you, okay, via email and I say okay, let’s meet tomorrow at 8 O’clock at your office, when you have O’clock, right, the whole number, so 8 O’clock, of course you don’t say 8:30 O’clock, but when you have 8 O’clock, 9 O’clock again you need to spell out so this is incorrect, you always say or you always write, eight O’clock, okay friends? Remember this or probably, four O’clock. Fine, so remember this when you have O’clock, you do not use numerical form, you spell out the number eight O’clock, four O’clock, three O’clock or whatever time you are mentioning with O’clock, okay? So these are the basic rules you follow and you need to spell out the numbers. Okay so when you have a number less than ten. When you begin a sentence with a number, spell it out. When you are writing an official document or an email, for example like this, do spell it out and well when you have O’clock, you spell it out eight O’clock, Nine O’clock, etc. Okay? So these are the basic rules you follow, I mean when to spell numbers out. Now let’s look at when do we write numbers, okay? So first if you see my example here, players 10, 15 and 45. Now example, say there is a match going on and the players in jerseys have numbers okay they are called nomining numbers because they are identity. So I have a T-shirt, a jersey which says 10 it just has 10 that means my identity is I’m player 10. So in such times you have players with the numbers I a numerical form. You do not say player ten, no. Because this becomes their identity, so you can write 10, the numerical form. Well another example is, you are sending out your official address to someone, in an email and you have your zip code mentioned there, so obviously in a zip code you have a numerical form of the number, you do not spell out, so you, for example you say 423052, that’s your zip code, so you are going write it in the numeric form and not spell it out for a zip code. Okay, well the next one is 25%, 2/3, 5 & ½. So this means for fractions and percentage you can write the whole, the numerical form. Well friends just a small advice, if you are sending an email it is always nice to spell out percentage, if you don’t it’s all right, but like I said it is a more formal way spell out percentage. So you have 2/3 you have 5 & ½. So you have to write, two hyphen third, you can write it in a numeric form, 5 & ½ you can write it in a numeric form. So when you have percent and fractions, please go ahead and use a numerical forms. Well the next one is 5 feet, 10 inches. Well you can also write this as 5’ 10”, okay? I’ve just spelled it out but you can write 5’ 10”. So this means for measurements, okay? So when you measurements, you can go ahead and write the numerical form and say for example in a recipe if I want to say take 2 cups of sugar or take 1 table spoon of oil, you can use the numerical form when you are talking about recipe in terms of measurements. Okay, well the next one I have something time related here, so have 8 AM, 4 PM. Now when you have AM & PM you need not spell out the number, use a numerical form, unless you are using O’clock, then you will spell out eight O’clock, like we just learnt here. But if you have AM & PM, you don’t spell out the time, you use the numerical form. Okay, so remember this. Well the next one is, ‘the club raised $100 for charity’. Now we did learn that when you are writing formally it is always better to spell it out, but you know you often see this in newspapers, internet, magazine, tabloids… when they have the heading or they have an article and they want to highlight or they want to bring out a particular figure or a number, they always use the numerical form for two reasons (1) is you save space and (2) it is easy for the readers to scan the information they need or to pick on to figures quickly and that is when magazines, newspapers, tabloids, internet articles always prefer using the numerical form to save number and to make it or to highlight easily or to make it easier for the readers to scan the information or the figures that they need, okay friends? So these are the few times when you use numbers in the numerical form so a quick recap, when you have players because their identity, nominal numbers, they could be zip codes, they could be cell phone numbers. Next a percent, fractions you use the numerical form, you have for measurements 5’ 10”, 2 cups, 3 KGs, okay? You have AM, PM. So remember when you are talking, or when you are writing time in an email and if you want to use AM & PM, you will write the numerical number for the time. And the last one is well newspapers, internet, articles and magazines for their headlines and articles they prefer using the numerical form of the number because it saves space and it is easier for people for scan out the information or know exact figure what you are talking about, right? So well, this is how we use numbers in writing, spelling them out and writing them in a numerical form. Well this brings me to the end of this lesson, I hope you enjoyed watching it, go ahead and use your numbers in written English correctly, I’ll be back soon with a new lesson till then take care and bye.

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